MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 13-Mar-14 16:09:44

Guest post from Nick Clegg: 'This is a watershed moment in the fight for a family-friendly Britain'

As the government's Children and Families Act gains Royal Assent, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg explains what the changes to parental leave, school meals and childcare will mean for families.

Rt. Hon Nick Clegg MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Posted on: Thu 13-Mar-14 16:09:44


Lead photo

Every child in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will get free school meals under the government's plan.

It’s not often that government legislation kick starts a revolution. Yet our Children and Families Act, which has just received Royal Assent, does just that. It takes us another important step closer to ensuring the more family-friendly Britain that Mumsnet and Mumsnetters have been campaigning for for years.

This is a watershed moment. Every dot and comma of the Bill puts into law measures that will transform outdated attitudes and systems in Britain. We want to give families like yours more freedom and flexibility to make the choices you want and ensure every child gets the best possible start in life.

So now, thanks to these changes, our parental leave system will no longer be built on the 1950s assumption that when a child is born, mum stays home while dad goes out to work. We want to ensure that fewer women feel like they have to choose between their family and career and that more men can spend the extra time they want with their kids.

And, now, if you’re a parent who wants to give your children the best care and opportunities, you’ll have improved access to good, affordable childcare and greater support through extended flexible working. You’ll also have the guarantee of a free healthy meal for your child during those important first years at school.

This is about more than changing laws. It’s about changing a culture that for too long has dictated rather than supported families’ choices.

Take the coalition government’s introduction of shared parental leave for new parents. In the old system, after a child was born, fathers got two weeks for paternity leave and mothers could take up to a year.

Our parental leave system will no longer be built on the 1950s assumption that when a child is born, mum stays home while dad goes out to work. We want to ensure that fewer women feel like they have to choose between their family and career and that more men can spend the extra time they want with their kids.

But what about the many parents who want to share these traditional roles between them, so they can better meet the needs of their family?

From April 2015, this flagship Liberal Democrat policy will make it possible for new parents to carve up the leave they’re entitled to, with much greater flexibility.

So if you want to return to work before your year’s leave is up or go back to work for a particular project, you can do so without losing out. We want to ensure that all career options remain open to women after pregnancy. Your partner can stay at home and use the rest of the leave and pay, if that’s what they want.

If you choose, you can even take off chunks of time together. Once you return to work, you’ll also be able to benefit from the support of family and friends who want to help out and will have the same right to request flexible working arrangements as you do.

These measures have been pored over by analysts, businesses and the people they impact to ensure they’re easy to understand, implement and use.

We don’t want to create an unnecessary burden, particularly for small businesses. So we've listened and responded to the concerns of business and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Businesses recognise the more diverse, productive and skilled workforce shared parental leave and flexible working can bring. I have seen some excellent examples of family friendly businesses through the Mumsnet Awards. I’d like to see many more in the future.

Above all else, we want a system that works for everyone, and one of the policies that will benefit almost every family with young children is our plan to provide free school meals to pupils in reception classes, year one and year two of primary school from September. Experts have been looking at this policy for years and universal free school meal pilots have shown the genuine difference this can make.

At a time when many are still struggling to make ends meet, it will save families hundreds of pounds per child every year. It’s also been shown to help children do better in English and Maths. On average, pupils in the pilot areas were two months ahead of their peers, with children from poorer backgrounds showing the biggest improvements. Children in the pilot areas were also shown to be more likely to eat vegetables and fewer snacks.

We know this approach helps. That’s why we’re working closely with schools and teachers across the country to meet our September launch.

Building a Britain fit for modern families has been one of my biggest ambitions, and that of the Liberal Democrats, in government. Today takes us another step closer to making that ambition a reality, laying the foundations for our family-friendly revolution.

Together, we’re building a modern Britain we can all be proud of, with a stronger economy and fairer society. So every British family, no matter what their circumstances, can prosper, and every child, whatever their background, can rise as high as their talents and hard work will take them.

By Rt. Hon Nick Clegg MP

Twitter: @DPMoffice

StarlightMcKingsThree Thu 13-Mar-14 16:38:09

It's a sad day for children with SEN. What a wasted opportunity and a huge waste of money.

This bill changes nothing except an increase in the ambiguity that has been used by Local Authorities to break both the law and deny children their human rights.

StarlightMcKingsThree Thu 13-Mar-14 16:40:09

It ignores the well-evidenced problems in SEN system and pretends using different jargon will change lives.

CountessOfRule Thu 13-Mar-14 16:45:03

Would Mr Clegg care to point out which of these areas are devolved and therefore won't apply in eg Scotland?

Pastpublicschoolboy Thu 13-Mar-14 17:06:09

Please let's not knock Mr Clegg. He is going to look into further protection for all our future generations. I have faith in him and have no political leanings. Just our children's futures to be full and productive. But most of all safe.

Headinbook Thu 13-Mar-14 17:10:29

Mr Clegg, please could you explain what steps have been taken to ensure that schools (and children) won't lose out on Pupil Premium when the means-tested marker is removed from free school meals?

StarlightMcKingsThree Thu 13-Mar-14 17:10:49

I'm not knocking Clegg. I am knocking the shameful process in which children with SEN have just had their futures gone from bad to worse with intense propaganda to fuel the change and no evidence-base whatsoever.

In fact the pathfinders haven't even started some of their pilots that have been approved as successful and rubberstamped through.

Additionally, those pathfinders have been found to be breaking the law and justifying it.

LCHammer Thu 13-Mar-14 17:19:20

Why would I trust or believe anything Clegg says? My memory is not that short.

HavantGuard Thu 13-Mar-14 17:55:07

Giving free meals to children who don't need them while sending families to food banks.

Brought to you by the Lib Dems

BoffinMum Thu 13-Mar-14 18:56:06

Nick, ignore the critics. There is strong academic evidence that this policy will do a lot to raise educational standards and improve the health of children. Having to apply for Free School Meals means that 25% of eligible families currently fail to claim. This policy will make sure we can have a clear conscience as a nation about giving all our pupils the best start in life. If as a nation we can afford to feed hospital patients, which not all countries choose to do, then it's clear we can afford to feed young children at school as well. Yes, you rushed the policy a bit, and yes, the costings for installing and upgrading school kitchens weren't brilliant, but the important thing is this. BASED ON THE EVIDENCE, IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Keep going.

Meglet Thu 13-Mar-14 19:13:33

Nothing that will help working single parents then? Unless single parents will get twice the parental leave and annual leave allowance hmm.

And what I will gain in 2yrs of free school meals for DC2 will be taken off us when they start charging for the CSA.

LCHammer Thu 13-Mar-14 19:42:48

Unfortunately for 'Nick' it's these critics who'll lose him & his cronies the next election.

Free school meals for all - a waste of money that is sorely needed elsewhere.

However, shared, flexible parental leave is long overdue in its implementation. I doubt there will be much uptake though - too many families will be terrified of having the main breadwinner's earning potential damaged at a time when so many are scraping by on nothing. Legislation that flexible working and long parental leave are all very well, but the long hours culture and presenteeism will make it mostly irrelevant. sad

And while these new policies having nothing to do these issues - um, what is being done about SN children whose parents are having to fight tooth and claw to have even their most basic needs met and the many families who are slowly starving as their benefits are stripped one by one and no living wage for those lucky enough to be employed?

georgesdino Thu 13-Mar-14 21:13:29

Yay to flexible parental leave! Really wish it was sooner!

LCHammer Thu 13-Mar-14 22:26:06

Free school meals for all will go a little way to making up for stopping of Child Benefit for higher incomes. Now, let's talk DLA. When are my two children getting it back? Their disability hasn't vanished, nor their needs just because they're one year older.

NonnoMum Fri 14-Mar-14 00:03:45

Thanks for the free school meals! You've just saved me about £90 a month for my two...

Arohaitis Fri 14-Mar-14 00:47:28

Boffin you do know that a lot of hospital food is nothing but cheap clip don't you? The spend last time I heard was just over a pound per person per day
I strongly suggest anyone going into hospital orders one of the special diets since the daily spend can be up to 5 times

You do also know that malnutrition is a problem amongst long stay institutionaliser people (and I include hospitals in that)

Arohaitis Fri 14-Mar-14 00:53:17

So if we are now family friendly when can I have my child benefit back?

Our school meals were a plate of high salt high fat high sugar mass produced frozen slop I wouldn't feed them to my child if there was ANY alternative

Really a lot of families are shackled to needing 2 incomes by the dreadful increase in house prices you lot have presided over (certainly in the South) so maybe had you fixed that we could all afford to take some time off

Anything in family friendly Britain for the over 7s or once your kids hit year 3 do you cease to be a family?

Arohaitis Fri 14-Mar-14 00:56:48

As evidence for exactly how much the guest poster cares about families and the future I give you

tuition fees.........

Come on your memory really can't be that short

scottishmummy Fri 14-Mar-14 01:04:31

Nick,The mc solvent don't need a universal free dinner.reallocate to those in need
Stop faffing about inconsequentially

WhatWillSantaBring Fri 14-Mar-14 07:58:55

"I doubt there will be much uptake though - too many families will be terrified of having the main breadwinner's earning potential damaged at a time when so many are scraping by on nothing".
You forget that in an increasing number of households, mine included, the woman is the main breadwinner. The legislation is designed to reflect the archaic assumption that you just made.

Gutted beyond belief that this doesn't come in till 2015.... We could survive on my salary but not my DH's, so I have DC will be in f/t childcare much sooner than we would like.

WhatWillSantaBring Fri 14-Mar-14 08:03:17

In 41% of households, the woman earns more.

Great policy. Can't we just occasionally be glad when something is done that helps?

morethanpotatoprints Fri 14-Mar-14 09:35:07

Mothers fathers and adopters, how utterly terrible shock
So adopters aren't mums and dads now, how offensive sad

Great that fostered children can stay with parents until 21, I thought this was the case anyway. I'm glad its changed.

The ban on smoking in cars when children are there also good.

BoffinMum Fri 14-Mar-14 09:50:48

God almighty, some of you lot are quick to moan. Don't you see this is all incremental? A work in progress? With regard to school dinners in particular, don't you realise that if they are only for 'the poor' or 'other people's children' they will remain crap in many schools, whereas if everyone has to eat them, the quality will have to pick up? Get on the bloody governing body and make a fuss about meals if you think they are no good. Harrass the companies who are doing a bad job. Reallocate contracts. Same with hospitals. Kick some ass if you think the meals are crap, take a bit of collective action. Stop bloody whinging and do something about it.

(Apologies in advance to those who may have been critical already having taken action and got frustrated).


Mydelilah Fri 14-Mar-14 09:55:30

Over here in the real world, the' right to ask' for flexible working hours doesn't mean much when the request is refused by our employers, or worse granted, but with no flexing of workload/performance targets, and an accompanying limitation in career prospects.

scottishmummy Fri 14-Mar-14 10:29:09

How pompous of you boffinmum to reprimand others posters do use an indignant FFS
It's belittling to reduce valid opinion to moaning
Clearly you disagree,but there are constructive ways to do so other than FFS to posters

georgesdino Fri 14-Mar-14 10:33:11

Exactly whatsantawillbring. Its 2014 we dont all rely on men. The leave changes are great and real progress.

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Fri 14-Mar-14 10:33:17

The shared parental leave is a great plan, it's a shame it's too late for our family, my DH would have loved to have spent some time with the kids as babies.

And an advance for feminism too.

Can someone fill me in on the SEN issue in the act, it's not something I've heard about? Is there a thread?

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 14-Mar-14 10:35:57

This is just so much window dressing.

Boffin what do you mean by 'if everyone has to eat them'? The school lunches will still be optional - we are not living in a dictatorship!

CountessOfRule Fri 14-Mar-14 10:43:25

Our school is leaning heavily on parents to get as close to 100% uptake as possible. So they might be theoretically optional but in practice it could be awkward to opt out. Logistics and so on.

JGTB Fri 14-Mar-14 13:05:55

Well done Nick! Ignore the moaners - these are all some really good steps forward you should be proud of and we have to be patient given some of the Tories would rather it was the 1950s!

bordellosboheme Fri 14-Mar-14 13:58:53

Is this not a little economically deterministic as a policy? What about those of us that want to be 1950s sahms? Are we irrelevant because we're not paying taxes. Why is caring getting squeezed out in the fight for taxes?

StarlightMcKingsThree Fri 14-Mar-14 14:24:34

In summary, this is how children with SEN have been failed:

StarlightMcKingsThree Fri 14-Mar-14 14:25:58
StarlightMcKingsThree Fri 14-Mar-14 14:27:36
StarlightMcKingsThree Fri 14-Mar-14 14:28:15

Am I reading that right?

Free school meals because most of you are such poor parents that this will make a huge difference to their health and ability to learn. Especially you poor people who never did feed your kids properly.

Not to mention that the school meals are often not especially healthy anyway.

JGTB Fri 14-Mar-14 14:50:26

bodellosboheme - no, because sahms can carry on being sahms and nothing will change, including how much they are valued - this is just giving all mums more choice

JGTB Fri 14-Mar-14 15:01:40

BackOnlyBriefly - I am a parent governor at an inner-city school in which most of the kids are NOT fed properly at home and the school does provide healthy meals - for many kids, all three meals of the day. That's why it's a good policy.

Parents who already give their kids healthy meals can a) enjoy saving a few quid and b) put their energies into making sure the meals the school provides are healthy, if they are not already!

JGTB, I appreciate that you're thinking in your specific situation that it will help. But do you not think that his remarks were patronising? and ill-informed too given that in many cases school dinners are cheap rubbish and the parent would be better advised to put something healthy in a lunch box.

And why are inner city parents not feeding their children properly? What is the common factor? Is it because they live in a city because I don't see a cause and effect there. Is it because they are Labour voters or could it be because they don't have any money?

HavantGuard Fri 14-Mar-14 15:45:31

The nearest primary to me has <2% FSM. There is a new food bank less than 5 miles away which is depressingly busy.

Apparently feeding families in need isn't government's responsibility anymore but giving free lunches to the children of affluent parents is.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 14-Mar-14 15:46:08

i don't know how he has the audacity to even appear in public let alone speak.

you have betrayed and betrayed mr clegg. you've also signed your party's death certificate.

WhatWillSantaBring - hardly an archaic assumption if the man is still the higher earner in 60% of households. I confess that statistic surprises me (do you have a source?) but is good news if true - perhaps the gap is finally closing.

I assume you mean households where both parents work, however, as by far the majority of SAHPs are still women.

Look, I hope I'm being unnecessarily pessimistic instead of just realistic, but the expectation in business is that women will take time off for children and men won't. Even the change in legislation (which is well overdue - more progressive countries brought it in years ago) won't affect overnight change - there will have to be a gradual shift in perceptions from employers and managers. I hope the trickle of initial intake will quickly turn to a flood, but I doubt it.

expatinscotland Fri 14-Mar-14 16:44:57

More nonsense from a clueless politician born with a silver spoon in his mouth, no concept of real life for most people and who went back on nearly all his election promises.

Why on Earth anyone entertains a word he says besides whatever comedic value can be derived from it is beyond me.

Doobydoo Fri 14-Mar-14 17:53:43

Hahaha...what a load of yuck.Be a good start to tell employers that when a MAN takes time out to look after children he is not strange and is still employable when the time is right for HIM to go back to work.

georgesdino Fri 14-Mar-14 17:58:31

I know lots of men waiting to take it. Im really upset its not happening this year

Siennasun Fri 14-Mar-14 21:22:32

Genuinely can't understand why any parent is complaining about free school meals for their children. School meals (in primary schools anyway) are generally very healthy. Most packed lunches aren't as good as the hot meals provided, which will need to follow nutritional guidelines. Working in schools in deprived areas I have often seen children sent to school with lunch boxes containing just packets of crisps and sweets. Conversely, just because a wealthier family can afford to pay for their child's meals it doesn't necessarily follow that they will provide a healthy packed lunch. This is the best way to ensure all young children get at least one balanced meal per day.
And, if you are strongly opposed to your child receiving said healthy, free school dinner, you can still opt out. No one is losing out here.

Shared parental leave is well overdue. I know a lot of families who will take this up.

SEN provision is a different matter. Children with SEN are already starting to miss out on support they need because of spending cuts and, sadly, it looks like it's only going to get worse.

scottishmummy Fri 14-Mar-14 21:27:27

Free meals not universally required,it's needless cost.better to target need than universal provision
The complaint (as you call it) is cost incurred,in a tokenistic gesture
If you work in deprived area you'll know that's where need is

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Fri 14-Mar-14 21:31:41

Thanks for the links, Starlight - is it that the Bill has failed to make things better, rather than actively making them worse? I thought maybe there was a Bedroom Tax II going on that I hadn't noticed.

WaxyDaisy Fri 14-Mar-14 21:34:56

I voted Lib Dem last time.

You horrified me by teaming up with the Conservatives.

Then there was tuition fees.

You lied. I will never trust your party again.

TheFabulousIdiot Fri 14-Mar-14 21:38:55

Is he coming back to answer any of the questions?

I want to know more about the flexible working changes and how SEN kids are going to be effected.

Is there any point asking questions?

CraftyBuddhist Fri 14-Mar-14 21:51:44

So now, thanks to these changes, our parental leave system will no longer be built on the 1950s assumption that when a child is born, mum stays home while dad goes out to work. We want to ensure that fewer women feel like they have to choose between their family and career and that more men can spend the extra time they want with their kids

And, now, if you’re a parent who wants to give your children the best care and opportunities, you’ll have improved access to good, affordable childcare and greater support through extended flexible working.

Please might mr clegg explain what 'the best care' is?

Because he clearly doesn't suggest above that the best includes that provided by a child's mother.

TheGreatHunt Fri 14-Mar-14 21:58:36

Universal benefits are simpler and easier to administer and reach 100% of the target population.

I would suggest raising taxes and having more universal benefits but people scream socialist although not realising that on a net basis the cost might be similar <sigh>

Siennasun Fri 14-Mar-14 22:09:56


I work across schools in all areas. Poor quality food in packed lunches (and subsequent child health issues) are not confined to deprived areas.
All children should have access to adequate nutrition. The best way to deliver that is universal provision of free school meals.

And complaints are not just cost incurred but also about school meals being less healthy than packed lunches, nanny state, etc, etc.

brettgirl2 Sat 15-Mar-14 10:18:24

Boffinmum is absolutely right.

Why the hoohaa about free school meals? You could widen the argument to 'why should the government provide free paper/ books/ pens/ chairs/ paints' to people who can afford to pay for them. Why is pasta and meatballs different? Should people pay for food in hospital if they can afford it?

Flexible leave is a great idea. The man is not always the main breadwinner and it is a significant step to more equality, for both sexes.

The SEN stuff I don't understand so won't comment on that.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 15-Mar-14 11:02:54

Sienna that is utter rubbish. School meals may be healthy on paper (although there is pudding EVERY DAY hmm), but the reality is that kids can pick and choose the bits they want and so pasta/potatoes/chips followed by cake/biscuit is the reality of what happens a lot of the time.

At least if I send my child in with a packed lunch then I know that he isn't just going to eat a load of sugary carbs and nothing else - and I also know whether he eats it or not, which allows me to adjust what he has over the course of the rest of the day.

I cannot abide nanny-state 'we know better than you' bullshit.

amimagic Sat 15-Mar-14 11:20:47

Britain and England seem to be interchangeable to the govt.

Why is Nick Clegg eulogising about a more family friendly Britain when for eg. free school meals are being implemented for England only?

TheHoneyBadger Sat 15-Mar-14 11:28:35

overcooked frozen mixed veg is not 'healthy'.

ds' school dinners never struck me as healthy in the slightest. kids can also pick the 'school sandwich' option which was a sandwich, pack of crisps and a cookie ffs.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 15-Mar-14 11:31:05

and if your child doesn't eat meat you're screwed because they do indeed just get to eat frozen mixed veg and overcooked pasta on a daily basis.

veggie stews with elected portions of meat or cheese, jacket potatoes with a choice of fillings and plenty of fresh fruit would be good. or even decent bread and a selection of meats, cheeses, salad veg and fruit would be preferable to the crap his school wanted to charge £2 a day for.

TheHoneyBadger Sat 15-Mar-14 11:35:12

honestly on site baked bread, meats and cheeses, tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber, olives and fruit in buffet style with a hot jacket potato option for those who wanted could be done for 50p a head and everyone could afford it encouraging mass uptake and all children could find something balanced to eat.

if it was 50p a day and of the nature stated i think all parents would pay, even those on very restricted incomes as it's on a par with a very budget packed lunch.

having all this pasta and meatballs, homemade pizza, curry and white overcooked rice etc with the obligatory overcooked frozen mixed veg isn't healthy and doesn't appeal to a hell of a lot of parents. nor does over pricing.

Justgotosleepnow Sat 15-Mar-14 11:53:43

Dear Nick I live in the south east & have an 11 month old baby. I am not going back to work until she is in school. This is because I think I am the best person to bring her up & teach her in her first years of her life.

My husband and I don't qualify for child benefit or any other government help. And yet my husbands wages don't cover all our outgoings. (Cancelling the landline, no holidays, we don't smoke etc). So we are surviving on our savings.

If my tax allowance could be transferred to my husband our monthly finances would be in the black, rather than the red.

WHEN is this going to happen?
It's not fair that by bringing up my own child I am regarded as being of zero worth to this government.
But packing her off to full time nursery so I can go back to work & earn money & pay tax seems to be what parents are pushed into now.

No one in early years childcare says all children should be away from their parents in full time nursery. Why is the government making this the only viable option for us? Think about the future adults you are creating. Ah but you won't be in government then. Sorry but I am now very cynical.

The chancellor & pm are from very wealthy families- HOW can they have any clue what it's like for the rest of us?

Oh and your colleague Liz Truss doesn't even have children, so how can she be given authority over other peoples children? Re number of children per staff in childcare. Shocking.

I have always voted & been interested in politics. Even wanted to be an mp once.

Now? I don't think I will bother to vote. The rich kids are just laughing all the way to the bank & leaving the rest of us struggling.

GladysKStrohl123 Sat 15-Mar-14 20:06:00

Message withdrawn as it was spam.

TheGreatHunt Sat 15-Mar-14 20:37:17

Now? I don't think I will bother to vote. The rich kids are just laughing all the way to the bank & leaving the rest of us

Even more so when you dont vote. At least spoil your ballot or read other manifestos and vote for a minority or even independent. Not voting makes no statement in the eyes of the politicians.

CountessOfRule Sat 15-Mar-14 20:48:36

Agreed. If you don't turn up you're effectively telling them to carry on, and have no right to complain.

Justgotosleepnow Sat 15-Mar-14 21:44:03

Ah well I was I actually planning to spoil the ballot paper

Paintyfingers Sat 15-Mar-14 21:55:20

Agree with the person who said tuition fees means I will never again vote lib dem.

Fsm for all are a waste of money.

I want to be at home with my DS, so we will not use this carve up of mat leave. I would like the right to return to work after two years mat leave though and the right to carve it all up between partners as in some of the scandi countries iiirc.

Siennasun Sat 15-Mar-14 23:59:32

Alibaba - what exactly is rubbish?? If you can't give a courteous response at least be specific.
I spend a lot of time in schools and often do observations at meal times. I can't remember the last time I saw chips on the menu.
I accept your point that kids pick and choose the bits they want. That is equally true of packed lunches. You are naive if you think kids with packed lunches don't swap/throw away the bits they don't want to eat.
If all kids got free school lunches you wouldn't get kids coming to school with just packets of crisps/sweets (this happens a lot).
If you object to your child getting a free school meal you can still make them a packed lunch. So really, what is there to get so irate about? (Love a good nanny-state rant tho, so thanks for that)

Siennasun Sun 16-Mar-14 00:10:53

Honeybadger - how long ago was your DS having school meals? My understanding is that crisps, chocolates, sweets, etc aren't allowed to be sold in schools these days. I've not seen anything like that for a long time.

MaryMotherOfCheeses Sun 16-Mar-14 00:18:21


Free school meals is an England only policy because education elsewhere is devolved.

Please don't say Britain when you only mean part of it.

MaryMotherOfCheeses Sun 16-Mar-14 00:28:44

Siennasun, yes, local primaries here have a "grab bag" option which is a sandwich, packet of crisps, piece of fruit (which is probably tiny and goes in the bin) and a cake / cookie thing.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 16-Mar-14 01:42:16

sienna saying that school meals are so healthy is rubbish, I'm sorry but it just is.

The meals at our infants are awful.

This week for example - I am looking on the website now - the carb options are potato waffles, mashed potato, two days of roast potato, chips. Five days of potatoes - two of them chips. No rice or pasta as a variation, unless you go with the veggie option which is all veggie sausages/quorn-type stuff which my kids wouldn't recognise as being real food.

Meat is beef, pork, fish cake, 'salmon and haddock slice' whatever that is, reformed chicken grill. Those are not too bad, I will agree.

Veg choices are sweetcorn/peas/ salad (manky lettuce and a half frozen tomato according to DS on the one occasion he had them) and one day of a frozen reheated mix of cauliflower and carrots.

Pudding every day - brownie, sponge and custard, jelly, iced bun, muffin.

Our school allows no sharing or swapping of foods because of allergy issues, and any food not eaten goes back in the lunchbox to come home again. So yes, I know exactly what my child is eating.

What there is to get irate about, is that this is money that would be much better spent elsewhere.

If this is your job, to observe this stuff, then you have a very blinkered view.

expatinscotland Sun 16-Mar-14 02:43:33

I cannot believe one person in a place of such power and with the privilege of such great education can become so blind-sighted he is so completely ignorant and out of touch with the populace, yet believes he is.

How saddening, when you consider the wars fought in reaction to such rule by Britain, and those who gave their lives in such struggles and for rights of the populace of those who reside in her domain, for suffrage of all her people, for rights in employment and thenceforth.

I know Mr. Clegg will never read any of this, why would he? He never had to live his life as an ordinary person. Enough is known of his own past to discern that, as if it were not patently obvious. There is no crime in that. But he presumes to think for the populace who voted for him, and he has gone back on all his promises.

He is untrustworthy, and a proven liar. Do our elected representatives presume such stupidity on the part of their constituencies? Really?

How very disheartening, to presume we will settle for bones thrown to us as dogs at this late stage, from a proven liar of empty promises, from a man who refuses to admit neither fault nor shame.

I've met braver Syrian hamsters in death.

You are a dishonour to your party and the people of Britain, Mr. Clegg.

Go on, delete me.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 16-Mar-14 09:00:06

just a year ago whoever asked how long ago my ds was having school dinners.

countries that provide free food tend to do simple food as i recall - re bread, meats, cheeses, fruit etc on a eat as much as you want kind of basis. it's also what works for most kids ime - to have a degree of choice (within a healthy range) and to eat as much as they want rather than to dollop a no control over it meal on a plate in front of them.

the kind of crap school dinners people are describing are entirely recognisable to me.

school dinners were a nightmare with ds because actually he will quite happily eat tons of fresh not overcooked vegetables, breads, olives, cheese, ham, chorizo, prawns, plain pasta, rice etc and whatever sort of REAL identifiable food is available. he won't eat 'meals' as in here's some unidentifiable meat with a lurid coloured slop sauce over it or a load of food mixed together into unrecognisable mush of dubious texture dolloped on top of some overcooked starchy rice.

they seriously need to just simplify and serve good simple food. this whole 'have to have a hot meal' business doesn't really have any basis in reality. they're not farmers.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 16-Mar-14 09:02:45

and imagine the saved costs in just putting out bread, meats, cheeses, salads, fruit, jacket potatoes, crudites etc on a big table? you could offer it much more cheaply and with far more uptake and without needing an industrial kitchen churning away in every school.

TheHoneyBadger Sun 16-Mar-14 09:04:52

sorry multiple posts but include some boiled halved eggs, some tuna mayo in a bowl, etc. cheap, nutritious, simple food within which all can find something they like.

honestly how would you liked to be served mass produced tasteless chicken 'curry' on overcooked rice with some watery frozen vegetables and told that's your dinner today, tommorow we'll be having overcooked white pasta with overcooked cheap mince and canned tomatoes on top.

Siennasun Sun 16-Mar-14 09:27:05


I work in SEN. My job has nothing to do with school meals. It's just I often happen to be in schools when they are eating.
The meals you describe could definitely be improved, but you've got protein, complex carbs and vegetables provided in the right ratio - whether the child chooses to eat them is a different matter but they can't eat a balanced meal if they're not given it. Have you actually seen the poor quality in person? Is your DS a big fan of salad at home?
I'm not an expert in school dinners by any means but in my unbiased opinion of having seen lots of school lunchtimes, in general the school dinners usually look tastier and healthier than packed lunches which vary massively in quality and smell vile.

Most schools have the no sharing rule but it is very difficult to enforce. You don't know exactly what a child is eating unless you watch them eat it.

In terms of money being better spent elsewhere, what could be more important than good nutrition for young children? All these incentives to encourage healthy eating are preventative measures to try to reduce obesity which is massively costly to the NHS. People complain about the nanny state but a lot of parents feed their kids junk, and there are a lot of fat and unhealthy kids around. Preventative measure aim to save a lot of money in the long term.

Siennasun Sun 16-Mar-14 09:33:33

The grab bag option sounds awful. I've never seen it in a primary school in my area, which is not to say it doesn't exist.
I'd be quite cross if school provided that to my DS for his lunch!

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 16-Mar-14 10:11:59

Sienna - I have seen the food - it is all as honey badger describes - random meat in lurid sauces. Smells the same as it did when I was at school.

DS loves salad, he struggles with children's parties because there tends not to be any salad with the sandwiches etc.

The no sharing rule is very strictly enforced, besides DS loves his lunch and wouldn't want to swap it.

I'm sorry if I was a bit angry, but the assumption that schools dinner are fantastic and healthy, and packed lunches all bad and sent in by parents who want to fill their children with sugar is just utterly ridiculous and needs challenging.

Paintyfingers Sun 16-Mar-14 12:27:29

The food is probably an impair enemy on home food for many children, but it would not be for my dc. Daft policy.

Paintyfingers Sun 16-Mar-14 12:27:49

Thanks iPhone! Not impair enemy - improvement!

TheHoneyBadger Sun 16-Mar-14 19:33:17

i am glad you're here alibaba. i totally fail to see how overcooked veg and reconstituted meat on over cooked white starchy carbs is considered healthy? healthy compared to what? it is no better than the sandwich, piece of fruit and a little tub of chopped cucumber and pitted olives for example that i'd give ds for lunch. in fact it's full of preservatives and colouring and salt and stripped free of nutrients from over cooking.

not to mention being the exact kind of slop that puts kids off of eating.

Siennasun Sun 16-Mar-14 20:27:55

Ali - I wasn't talking about your (or anyone's) DC specifically, I meant that free school dinners will benefit children as a population. If you don't think your DC will benefit you can still make them a packed lunch. That's why I think this is a good idea.

I'm genuinely surprised by the descriptions of school dinners on this thread, as it doesn't resemble the food that I have seen children eating in schools recently. I guess there must be a lot of variation in standards between different schools/areas?

Just had a look at my DS's school menu. This week meat options are chicken casserole, chilli con carne, Beef stroganoff, lentil curry, fish fingers, with veggie versions of the same thing. Starches are couscous, jacket potatoes, potato wedges and 2 days of rice. Different vegetables/salad everyday.
Desserts are all fruit based - yoghurt and fresh fruit, apple crumble, pineapple cake, fruit and jelly, banana & custard.
They also get toast in the morning and a piece of fruit in the afternoon.

Ive never seen/eaten it so dont knw about quality but this sounds healthy to me, and similar to the types of meals I've seen kids eat at work, which all looked and smelled nice - no soggy frozen veg or manky salad. If some schools can serve good lunches, surely they all can?

lionheart Mon 17-Mar-14 10:49:17

Interesting to see he makes no mention at all of SEN.

StarlightMcKingsThree Mon 17-Mar-14 10:53:21

That's because nothing has improved for children with SEN, and in fact much has got a lot worse.

Paintyfingers Mon 17-Mar-14 10:55:51

Starlight, I think I need to inform myself on all this as my DS is about to start nursery on an IEP and we've been informed these are being removed hmm

lionheart Mon 17-Mar-14 12:18:14

There should be a follow up that involves a dialogue rather than a simple advert for the Liberals/Coalition.

Isn't that a part of the MN campaign?

RaRaTheNoisyLion Mon 17-Mar-14 13:28:35

Painty I don't think it will make any difference at the stage you are at tbh. Local Authorities have been saying they don't do this/that/swing a cat/feed a bat long before there was any 'reform'.

IEP's don't do anything. They are just pieces of paper. You want to know what your child's difficulties are, what targets he has to improve on them, what support will be given, who by, and how you can help. This can be done in a variety of ways, - as long as it IS done.

Whether it IS done or not has no correlation to having an IEP, and every correlation to having a school with a good attitude, supportive SENCO, commitment to spending the SEN budget on early intervention for Children with SEN instead of using it all on getting as many level 4s as possible (which they can as it isn't ringfenced).

mummytofour Mon 17-Mar-14 20:16:37

Constant messages about 1950's families as though they don't exist, there are still many traditional families out there, with two parents, married, one parent earning a good wage while working long hard hours and paying a lot into the tax system while partner stays at home to bring up children,packs them a lunchbox, ensures they eat breakfast and prepares a home cooked meal for dinner.Only one parent is there to sit with the children while they eat, they rarely see their dad during the week, if i were to work too my children would be brought up by strangers.
I have four children, we receive no benefits at all. One of my children has a long term health condition IBD which is not recognised as needing any financial support for.
We do not need free school meals, my four year old would refuse them, at least with a packed lunch i know she eats what i give her.
I would rather of kept our child benefit which we had no idea would be cut when we planned our children, yet this is still being given to two working parents on the same income.
There are many traditional middle earning families who are now being made to feel the choices they made are outdated, yet the news is full of obese children and many more problems, i think we should encourage the traditional family unit while supporting the change in others situations.

RaRaTheNoisyLion Mon 17-Mar-14 20:27:00

Families in the 1950s could survive on one wage, or technically 2 part-time wages.

Families therefore had more free time or at least time outside work to maintain their relationships, home, enjoy their children, be a bigger part of their communities, shop locally and ethically, develop skills, help out neighbours and volunteer etc.

In most ways they were much better off. The only real improvement to that would to ensure that there was true choice about who worked and when backed by equal pay and opportunities.

RaRaTheNoisyLion Mon 17-Mar-14 20:27:39

And they retired earlier, with decent pensions, and worked less hours.

TheHoneyBadger Mon 17-Mar-14 21:23:36

lol at raised by strangers. take cover!

morethanpotatoprints Mon 17-Mar-14 22:13:44

We are a traditional family who have one wage.
It's not the life of riley but we do ok, even manage quite a few luxuries.
Anybody who knows us, but not our finances would say we were middle class, or at least have a middle class lifestyle.
Certainly agree though choice is paramount. I don't think I'd be happy being made to feel we have to live like this.
It has and still is working for our family, but there are so differences to the 1950's.
I'm not sure I'd enjoy the old housework conditions and dh as the one to be obeyed. grin
1950's style in this age is great.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 17-Mar-14 22:17:22


Its fewer, not less.
I am a bit thick and really chuffed I learnt this. I want to tell the world.

If its measureable its fewer
If its a mass like sand its less.

So supermarkets are a pedants nightmare, with their 10 items or less.

RaRaTheNoisyLion Mon 17-Mar-14 22:18:27

I'm sorry if you find communication a challenge. Would you like me to explain my meaning?

MoreBeta Mon 17-Mar-14 22:28:54

The Govt must be living in cloud cuckoo land if they think employers will act any differently than they do now:

“By enabling any employee to request to work flexibly, we want to remove any cultural assumption that flexible working is only for women, or just for parents and carers. We want these reforms to bring about a culture change in Britain’s workplaces, allowing everyone to better balance work with their personal life in the way that works for them.

“The new system is good for business as it will create a more motivated and flexible, talented workforce. Employers will be able to attract and retain women - from the boardroom to the shop floor - and prevent them from dropping out of the world of work once they start a family. Flexible working will also help widen the pool of talent in the labour market, helping to drive growth.”

Rubbish. Employers regards flexible working requests as a pain in the neck. Flexible is what they expect employees to be. Come in at a moments notice, work longer hours or shorter hours or weekends at a moments notice is what employers want. It keeps business costs down. Flexible working employees raise business costs.

As an employer, you want a flexible workforce that turns up when you want them to not a workforce that turns up when they want to.

The answer to flexible working requests will still be NO! in most cases.

Unless it is a legal obligation to say YES! it just wont happen.

Arohaitis Tue 18-Mar-14 13:05:11

Sorry not to be back I have been busy dealing with some RL problems I am not going to dignify boffins attack on my right to hold an opinion with a response

Sienna I'm glad your ds school meals sound lovely my dcs do too only I happen to know that it is high in salt and sugar that things are frozen and reheated and mass produced that the meat is the cheapest they can get as is everything else. I also know that they don't 'make' the dcs eat any of it. They can eat chips and chocolate muffin everyday if they wish or nothing at all, they can not eat fruit or vegetables for the whole term.

I also know that hospital meals were £1.05 a day not that long ago and that malnutrition in people fed institutional food is a real and growing problem.

I happen to feel that this is not the best way to spend money, intervene in poverty, improve the health of the nation etc etc I don't believe this gov is truly family friendly.

Wasn't this some kind of vote for me freebie from Labour not that long ago?

Just my view

Oh and tuition fees Nick

BoffinMum Wed 19-Mar-14 09:40:13

For £2.10 my kids get:

1. Polystyrene cup of home made vegetable soup (optional)
2. Something like steak pie, mashed potatoes and peas, cooked from fresh (apart from the peas). Meat comes from local butcher. Alternative would be a veggie pie.
3. Yoghurt or a chocolate brownie.

They get this because the man who runs the catering company is ex-army and passionate about food, so he goes around negotiating decent deals on the raw ingredients. He also uses seasonal food. They have contracts for a number of schools, but not too many, so he can control operations effectively. He knows the business of school meals inside out, and more importantly, he cares what is going into kids' bellies. I believe there might be an arrangement whereby if the school has good take-up, the cost of individual meals can go down.

When the contract was being tendered, the local authority wheeled out a dinner lady who had been awarded an MBE as one of the presenters doing the pitch. She was dressed as though she were going to a dinner dance, completely inappropriate for a business pitch. When we asked about where the ingredients were sourced and cooked, either she didn't know, or it was clear that they were bulk buying entry level frozen stuff for reheating. We did a tasting and one of the choices was chicken and pasta. There was hardly any chicken, and the pasta and vegetables were badly overcooked, all drowned in a cheap bottled sauce that was very bland. The other choice was a deep fried chicken wrap, which was almost inedible - too spicy and mostly batter and very little chicken wrapped in a stale tortilla. The portion size was far too small for Key Stage 2. Salad was offered but was basically a few chopped bits and pieces dumped to one side of the display - clearly an afterthought. Dessert was a piece of sponge cake made from a packet, or a yoghurt. The yoghurt was about the only thing I would have wanted my kids to eat. The local authority offered something like £5000 towards the redecoration of our school dining room and they would have put their branding on it.

The other providers (there were three in total) waffled on about food sourcing and super foods - they really knew the patter. Clearly they also listen to the Food Programme, like me. However the food samples given to us were very low in protein content (2oz) and very high in processed carbohydrates, and one of the dishes, some sort of pre-packaged stir fry, was much too spicy for us, let alone the average child in our school. We suspected the spices appeared to be hiding poor quality ingredients. Again, pudding was a piece of sponge cake, although this time custard was served as the children's tasting panel had expressed a desire to test custard if at all possible, or a yoghurt. The sponge cake was cooked fresh and quite nice. This firm also offered £5000 towards decorating and branding our dining room.

As a result of this tendering exercise, I concluded that ultimately the problem with many school meals is that schools and governors have not been fussy enough about their contracts, and they don't put enough pressure on the catering firms to provide what they should. There is a lot of money to be made in school dinners in this country and we have to remember that. If people get together and explain exactly what they want from schools, and ask to be made part of the tendering process, it is possible to put the thumbscrews on providers and improve things, as we did. This is the area that needs attention, in my opinion. And this is why I think that the arguments about school food not being good enough to provide for free are not good arguments. We can do this well, and we can give it away, but we all need to get more involved at school level.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now