Leaders across Cambridgeshire show support for Government U-turn on free school meals extension
PUBLISHED: 16:45 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:45 18 June 2020
Education leaders across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have shown their support for the government’s change to extend free school meals for thousands of pupils over the summer holidays.
The support comes after the government decided to turn back on the scheme following increasing pressure from schools and other public figures, such as Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.
Families already in receipt of free school meals will continue to receive provision over the six-week summer break, a period they are not usually covered for.
Jonathan Lewis, director of education for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, said: “It is widely known that having a healthy, balanced meal contributes greatly to a child’s development and attainment.
“This is why our school and academy leaders acted early, even before lockdown, to work with local businesses and supermarkets to ensure those who were entitled to free school meals received them – whether they have been in school or at home.”
In Cambridgeshire, 14,064 pupils are eligible for free school meals, with 1,362 additional pupils now meeting the criteria since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.
An additional 237 pupils in Peterborough also meet the criteria since lockdown began, on top of the 14,064 pupils already eligible.
Mr Lewis said both Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council are working with the Department of Education and all schools across the area to make plans for families.
He added: “Whether through food parcels, vouchers or another method, we will ensure all our eligible families are provided for.”
Cllr Simon Bywater, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s children and young people’s committee, said: “Families across the country have been facing difficulties throughout the lockdown, so by extending the scheme to cover the summer weeks, they are helping take some of the weight off their shoulders.”
Some families have found that they are now eligible for the scheme for the first time, as their financial circumstances may have changed during the lockdown period, something that the councils are encouraging them to check.
Cllr Lynne Ayres, cabinet member for children’s services, education, skills and the university at Peterborough City Council, said: “If this is the case for you and your family, please get in touch so we can check if you meet the criteria, so all our children and young people have access to the best support available.”
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