Free school meals to be expanded across London for another academic year

Image above: School meals; library image

Free school meals for all primary children extended

London’s primary school students will be receiving free lunches for another year.  Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced he will inject £130 million into the initiative for the 2023-24 financial year, followed by an increased allocation of £140 million for the subsequent year.

The Mayor said he was delighted to extend the service for another year, describing it as a “lifeline” for many. Mr. Khan said he wanted to provide essential support to families struggling with their finances. City Hall estimates potential savings of up to £1,000 over two years per child, offering relief amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Currently, all children in state schools across England from reception to Year 2 are entitled to free school lunches, while Year 3-6 pupils from eligible benefit-receiving households also qualify under existing government regulations. Mayor Khan’s initiative fills the gap, providing meals for London pupils not covered under current government funding.

He told BBC London announcing the scheme’s continuation was one of his “proudest days as mayor”.

“I’ve spoken to teachers over the course of the last few months [and] I’ve seen the difference it makes in relation to better concentration, better attendance, better productivity,” he said.

The Mayor said take-up of free school meals had been at 85% in the September to December term last year, with 70 million free meals being served in London during that time.

While Mr. Khan’s move has been praised, it also sparked debates within the educational community. Impetus, a youth education charity, suggested that directing funds towards providing breakfast for disadvantaged pupils might have better served those most in need.

With the Mayoral election approaching, Susan Hall, the Conservative candidate, has pledged to maintain the policy if elected, extending the initiative through to the 2024-25 school year, at the very least.