Parents left in dark over lockdown free school meals
Schools still waiting for details on how help will work
08 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor
Gospel Oak Primary School
A HEADTEACHER has criticised the government for a lack of information on how parents can claim free school meals in the latest lockdown, despite the Prime Minister directly referencing it in his speech announcing the restrictions.
John Hayes, headteacher at Gospel Oak Primary School, said he was worried for parents whose children are eligible for the support, as two days on from Boris Johnson’s public address there were no details of how they could access it.
During the first lockdown central government funded vouchers for parents, which they could use at supermarket checkouts to get a discount from their shopping.
Hampers were also provided by the council. Mr Hayes is expecting to start receiving food parcels from school dinner contractors Caterlink again later this week, but he would need to get staff into school to help hand them out and it would create extra journeys for parents who would have to come to the site in Mansfield Road to collect them, before going on to do their usual food shopping.
According to government figures, nearly a third of the school’s 450 pupils are eligible for support.
The Town Hall provided food for up to 6,800 families, with 13,000 children during the October half-term, when government support stopped.
Worried Gospel Oak parents have already contacted Mr Hayes with their concerns.
“In the first lockdown we had quite an inefficient system where parents could get vouchers.” he said. “This time around there is no guidance for free school meals for our families. We are preparing to provide hampers, the problem is any unnecessary journeys that parents will have to make, and I will have to bring in extra staff to do collections.
“It is a huge worry. We are a fantastically diverse school but we have some really vulnerable kids where they are living in overcrowded accommodation and a decent meal every day is one of my priorities for them.”
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During his live address to the nation on Monday night, Mr Johnson said: “We will provide extra support to ensure that pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed, and we’ll distribute more devices to support remote education.”
On Tuesday night, a Department for Education spokesperson said details would be provided “shortly”. They added that schools should continue to provide food for any pupil still in school, and a free meal to any eligible pupil.