All pupils at infant schools in England are to get free school lunches from this September, Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg announced last year.
The change – for children in reception, year one and year two – will save parents about £400 a year per child they said.
Sounds great on paper doesn’t it?
Although you can opt out of having free school meals we made the decision to sign Isaac up for them in the hope that it would encourage him to try more foods, especially vegetables, if he saw his peers eating them, as he can be a fussy wotsit.
It did seem odd not making him a lunchbox on the first day of term, so we set off with just his book bag containing a bottle of water. He wasn’t impressed he was having school meals, but when I explained everyone was having one he seemed happier.
When I collected him from school I soon found out that school lunches had been a disaster and not only was the food 45 minutes late, but they had tried to feed my son a piece of fatty chicken (the dinner lady had to cut the fat off), cabbage and some “squashed potatoes”. Dessert was vanilla sponge with no custard! Needless to say he came home starving.
Of course is made the local news with dozens of schools affected, some ordering pizza and others heading for the local supermarket for supplies. I can only feel sorry for our new head teacher on her first day being faced by this challenge.
Hoping this was a one-off I sent Isaac into school on Thursday with a few bits in his bag, in case of a repeat of the day before. I had been unable to go shopping as Eliza and Sebastian were ill, so didn’t have much in the cupboards.
Day 2 was a disaster too. The curry turned up with no rice and about half the amount they were expecting – the poor teachers were pulled away from teaching the children and forced to make sandwiches for them. Isaac’s meal consisted of a cheese sandwich and a frozen yoghurt……half what he would have had in his lunchbox. The little girl I take to and from school got nothing at all as she had been playing when her peers were called in for lunch.
My mind was made up……..Isaac is taking a lunchbox again. Even the new head teacher couldn’t tell us when the situation would be resolved but because of the promise of providing the kids with healthy school meals they have to do something. The school doesn’t have a kitchen or the staff to make these meals so they have had to improvise, with Friday’s offering a Pasta and tomato sauce combo that was put together in a spare classroom made by teachers who should be concentrating on the children’s learning.
It seems Mr Clegg’s “every child gets the chance in life they deserve”, to teach healthy eating habits and boost attainment hasn’t got off to the best start.