Free school meals for all infant children

(564 Posts)
Scarletbanner Tue 17-Sep-13 17:11:15

What do you think? I think it's a great idea.

Sirzy Tue 17-Sep-13 17:13:12

I'm not sure on it to be honest.

DS is starting in reception next year and I think unless it was some sort of fantastic menu I would still rather send him with a packed lunch

Scarletbanner Tue 17-Sep-13 17:13:16

Sorry - here

Nancy66 Tue 17-Sep-13 17:15:02

I think it's a good idea too.
I assume parents can opt out though if they still want to do packed lunches.

Scarletbanner Tue 17-Sep-13 17:16:00

It avoids any stigma of being on FSM, though. And for families with a few children, the costs of school lunches soon mount up.

I think it's a ploy as they will be going to the polls in May 2015.

turnipsoup Tue 17-Sep-13 17:19:25

Brilliant. I think it is wonderful that all children will now get a healthy meal a day.

Sirzy: why would you send DS with a packed lunch?

Sirzy Tue 17-Sep-13 17:21:23

Because the menus for the local schools wouldn't have enough that he would eat. Having just looked he would end up with a jacket potato every day it seems.

Are schools also going to be provided with the staff and space to cook so many more meals?

Scarletbanner Tue 17-Sep-13 17:21:41

It won't make me vote for them though!

ouryve Tue 17-Sep-13 17:22:46

Our school lunch menu is full of red meat, pastry and cakey puds. No healthier than the packed lunch my boys take and nowhere near as nice.

sillyoldfool Tue 17-Sep-13 17:23:26

Obviously timed as a vote winner, but a good thing none the less.
Will definitely take them up, we're a way above the threshold for fsm, but it'll make a big difference to our food budget. Fingers crossed they roll it out for all years a bit later!

Bumpstarter Tue 17-Sep-13 17:23:50

Absolutely livid. What about the juniors? They are basing this decision on research which took place in pilot schools where they had universal free school meals IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL. Apparently the school culture changed. So how are they going to have the same results if they only do if for HALF the school?

On a personal note, I have struggled to pay for school meals, for the last 4 years, and my children will both be in the juniors once this comes in.

Ragwort Tue 17-Sep-13 17:25:19

Brilliant. I think it is wonderful that all children will now get a healthy meal a day.

You must be very lucky, at my DS's school the meals were shipped in, ready-cooked and not at all healthy.

NoComet Tue 17-Sep-13 17:25:50

Yes, but it will only have health benifits for all if they are compolsory and the DCs eat them.

And I can assure them that DD2 would happily go hungry rather than eat a meal she doesn't like.

Just as she can and does go thirsty if water is the only drink on offer.

Personally, I'd much rather they laid off worrying what DCs eat and concentrated on teaching them.

Children's diets are not schools job, they are parents. It makes fuck all difference if a DC eats a brown roll and an apple in school, but coke and a mars bar for brealfast and MacDonald's for tea!

mrsravelstein Tue 17-Sep-13 17:26:22

schools meals have been shite at the private and state schools my kids have been to.

poachedeggs Tue 17-Sep-13 17:26:49

I have reservations about the "healthy" nature of school meals. Ours seem great but there's unlimited French bread and on days I've sent DS he's come home having had bread sticks and carrot batons and French bread then a (sweetened low fat) yogurt for afters. I don't class that as very healthy, but doubtless if they become free for all it'll put pressure on those of us who still choose lunches. Plus it might be something I have to opt for if our finances continue to be squeezed.

Having said that I think it would be great to remove the stigma of free school lunches.

Ragwort Tue 17-Sep-13 17:27:25

Totally agree Star, wish schools would spend more time and energy actually educating our children than worrying about what they eat.

PandaNot Tue 17-Sep-13 17:28:45

We were one of the pilot areas and had two years of fsm for all primary children. Almost all children opted to have them at our school and most have continued ever since.

DrinkFeckArseGirls Tue 17-Sep-13 17:29:37

Probably that's because of Daniel Pelka case.

Viviennemary Tue 17-Sep-13 17:31:09

I theory it's an excellent idea. But I think the wastage will be tremendous.

thegriffon Tue 17-Sep-13 17:31:44

I think its great. It'll be more inclusive for those who are already having free school meals because of parent's low income.
Depends how the schools handle it of course but hopefully will be an opportunity for children will learn to enjoy the social aspect of eating. Also my children were a lot less fussy with food when they ate with other children so perhaps there'll be less food fads

topicsactiveimon Tue 17-Sep-13 17:33:14

I'd rather they spent the money on an extra classroom assistant.

I have been fortunate enough that I do not need the government to provide my children lunch, and I'm content that my tax money pays for children who do need it. If some parents are struggling, they could lower the threshold for FSMs and catch more children on the edge of needing it. Would help out more parents. Sometimes, I am aware, it costs more to administer a benefit than if you just gave it to everyone. But I have a hard time believing that's the case here.

Indith Tue 17-Sep-13 17:34:08

Round here took part in the trials. Apparently it was great AND the quality of the school meals went up. Sadly they stopped it just before ds1 started school.

BackforGood Tue 17-Sep-13 17:34:30

I'm going against the grain, and saying it seems daft to me, to give the Country a £600million bill it can ill afford at this time, when a considerable number of families are very happy to pay it.
FAR better, IMO, to raise the threshold for FSMs, so more of the families who are 'being pinched' qualify, but leaving it as it is for those who can afford it. That way, ALL Primary children could be included, not just the first 3 years.

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Tue 17-Sep-13 17:35:08

Great idea, but should be extended to juniors as well. I agree they can be too carb heavy though - our school meals are good on the whole, but there is fresh bread on the side every day, which is overkill imo, especially when the menu is something like spag bol followed by cake.

But the idea of making sure all children get a decent hot meal every day is sound. Especially with the soaring cost of living - plenty of families who do not qualify for fsm could still be struggling to afford food.

NonnoMum Tue 17-Sep-13 17:35:12

Brilliant idea.

ShepherdsPurse Tue 17-Sep-13 17:35:36

Most school meals are vile. I would rather the money was spent on getting the education right. And maybe fresh fruit etc at break times.

ShepherdsPurse Tue 17-Sep-13 17:36:38

It would be great that every child has a hot meal a day, but most do anyway. No point giving them all these nice dinners and then having no bloody resources to teach them with.

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Tue 17-Sep-13 17:37:41

And I really agree re. The social aspect. ALL the children sitting down and eating a proper cooked meal together sounds great.

frogwatcher42 Tue 17-Sep-13 17:38:19

Back for Good. I agree with your opinion.

Much better to raise the threshold of FSM so more families needing help are included. There are loads of families above the threshold with older children who genuinely struggle so why would you choose (as a government) to fund rich families a meal just because they happen to have a young child.

Actually think it is a bit insulting to only offer it to those young children. What about the year 6's who are far more likely to fill up on junk walking to and from school, and need more food during the day. The young ones already get free fruit.

KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 17-Sep-13 17:38:37

Until September rolls around, there's always our lunch box tips and lunch box recipes!

XBenedict Tue 17-Sep-13 17:40:36

I think it's a great idea in theory. I really hope it improves the quality of the meals. I read the recent report on school dinners where the idea of free school meals came from, it was an interesting read. They said at the moment school dinners are too unpopular, if more children ate them the quality would improve because there would be more money available. At the moment school dinners are being run like a consistently half empty restaurant and are being heavily subsidised by the government. Their recommendation for free school meals, in their opinion and calculations, should save money and improve quality.

mrsravelstein Tue 17-Sep-13 17:40:37

ds1 came home from school ravenous every day for the 4 years he was at a school with compulsory school meals. the only thing he ate were the bread rolls, and if they'd run out, he'd have nothing.

OddBoots Tue 17-Sep-13 17:40:52

I imagine the idea is to start with the youngest children then roll it out to the older ones as time goes on - these things have to start somewhere.

misdee Tue 17-Sep-13 17:41:23

Great idea! However dd4 will still be having a packed lunch due to multiple allergies.

ShepherdsPurse Tue 17-Sep-13 17:41:29

Have they said where this money would be coming from? What cutbacks would there be in order to raise the funds for FSM for all? It has to come from somewhere and all we keep hearing is the 'pot' is empty.
So before we think how marvellous it would all be I think we need to see the bigger picture .

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 17-Sep-13 17:42:36

School meals are by no means always healthy. They are generally speaking not healthy for vegetarian or vegan children. I see no reason to believe that they will magically become so.

My kids are all too old for this, my youngest is in Y6 now - but if this was a few years ago I would still be sending my kids to school with packed lunches.

poachedeggs Tue 17-Sep-13 17:42:41

I agree with Back too.

No chance with my dd. she eats like a bird half the time. I'd never make up the shortfall from the shit they serve. She was on them a term before. Never again!!

ShepherdsPurse Tue 17-Sep-13 17:44:54

Perhaps there will be even less servicemen and women on the fronline without proper kit. Perhaps there will be even more stretches doctors and nurses in our hospitals. Perhaps there will be more redundancies of police, fire, ambulance people.

I know which I would rather have.

frogwatcher42 Tue 17-Sep-13 17:46:40

Our school does lovely meals - really healthy and very tasty (we go in for regular meals with kids (have to pay!!)).

However, I see loads of kids eat only the pizza, or a sausage, or the bread and leave the rest. They are clever and joke around about chopping into little bits and scraping the veg round the plate to mash it up so its not noticeable (as staff supervise the scrape into the bin to see what they have eaten!). They do a good job and it looks like all the veg has been eaten and just the scapings left!!! My kids now try it at home too.

I don't think a lot of kids have a healthy meal even though what goes on their plate is a lovely healthy meal. Just think how often most of us have to remind them to eat parts of a meal at home that they would leave through choice!!!

OddBoots Tue 17-Sep-13 17:47:40

I bet the schools will be pleased not to have all that admin and the need to chase non-payers. In that regard it will save the schools themselves money.

frogwatcher42 Tue 17-Sep-13 17:47:42

I don't get how the government can find these extra pots of money at a drop of a hat, when they want to.

Yet bleat on about needing to cut benefits, cut NHS funding, cut council funding etc at other times.


Chusband Tue 17-Sep-13 17:48:47

Totally ignorant here but is there not so e kind of nutritional guidelines that school dinners should meet? If not, shouldn't there be?

Or is this what Jamie Oliver was trying to do some years ago?

Sirzy Tue 17-Sep-13 17:49:45

Odd - unless they are being given extra staff and money for space to prepare the extra meals then it won't save the schools money!

Jojay Tue 17-Sep-13 17:50:08

We'll, I've just told DS1 and 2. Ds2 is in reception and if chuffed to be getting them. Ds1 is gutted that he'll be in Yr 3 next year so will miss out.

So it's a this up in this house.

frogwatcher42 Tue 17-Sep-13 17:50:41

Chusband - there are guidelines and I think most schools (surely all) meet them.

Doesnt make the kids eat it though. Supervision at mealtimes in a lot of schools is poor and the kids only eat what they like on the plate.

What is the point of providing a perfectly balanced plate of food if they only eat the wedges and bread???

Jojay Tue 17-Sep-13 17:50:44

* thumbs up

Yonihadtoask Tue 17-Sep-13 17:51:40

I think school meals should be compulsory for all primary children.

I read this thread, and remember that at my primary ALL the children ate school dinner - apart from one or two who went home for lunch.

However it was much more civilised than the canteen style they have now. Everyone had a designated table, and there was no choice of food. You had dinner. It was always properly cooked stuff too, like meat pies, and sponge and custard for pudding.

DS is 15, and has been to three schools in his primary years. Only one of them had decent meals.

The press have linked this to the savings from the Child Benefit cuts. They have just flogged 6% of Lloyds for £3.2bn.

Yonihadtoask Tue 17-Sep-13 17:52:54

I didn't answer the question did I.

I think if they were free then the take up would be significantly higher - and schools could go back to the old style of serving up.

meditrina Tue 17-Sep-13 17:56:06

Some LAs do this anyhow (Southwark, I think, and it's a Labour council).

I don't know if the trial is still running and if it was deemed a success.

littlemisswise Tue 17-Sep-13 17:57:31

I think it is madness.

People with cerebral palsy being told they might get better so they can go to work, people who can not feed themselves or walk or talk being told to prove they are unable to work. Thousands of genuine disabled people about to lose DLA.

There is warning of a crisis coming this winter in the NHS. If you are in hospital and need 3 meals a day, the chances of one being edible is slim. Not enough nurses, doctors or HCAs to look after you. Waiting lists getting longer.

Servicemen and women overstrecthed so tours of duty are becoming longer. Kit is poor and not reliable.

Social care budgets are being cut.

Older children are not going to Uni because they can not afford it because if the rise in tuition fees and living costs.

I could go on. Does the Government address them? No, they give people, many who can afford them free school meals. It is buying votes, nothing more.

MegBusset Tue 17-Sep-13 17:57:59

DS1 will be in Y3 in Sept so it wouldn't apply anyway but his school and external supplier have proved repeatedly unable to provide an ingredients list for their meals (he has multiple allergies) so will be on packed lunches forever.

I might take them up for DS2 but then he just wants the same as DS1 and I can make two pack-ups as easily as one.

Frankly I'd rather have CB back!

kilmuir Tue 17-Sep-13 17:59:39

No way, ridiculous, yes to free meals if you are elligible, but not otherwise. Why is government paying for meals and giving out child benefit. Big fat no

And what about dietary requirements. Are they going to train all the staff on vegetarian/vegan/gluten free etc meals and how to handle the food?

Thousands of pounds of extra equipment and training there before its even rolled out.

Or do the poor kids get stuck with a plain jacket and some salad? Yes highly nutritious every single day hmm

Bonkerz Tue 17-Sep-13 18:01:20

I am pleased about this but the menus need an over haul. Dh and I were just discussing this. Cost here is £2.10 a day. Dd loves a hot meal but its become expensive especially as some days there is not enough food provided to the school and last Monday dd ended up with plain spaghetti, grated carrot and a bread roll! Hardly worth £2.10!

Ds will benefit from this though as he starts school 2015.

My sisters children qualify for FSM but she sends dcs with pack lunch.
I do feel its the middle income families (17-26k) that lose out on lots. We earn £22k before tax etc so real income is about £17k and that's with both of us working 40 hours. I can't afford for dd to have school dinners and I can't afford prescriptions so don't go to docs or dentist so I haven't been for over 7 years!

Rooners Tue 17-Sep-13 18:01:46

I agree with whoever said raise the threshold so more children qualify who don't now, and whose families struggle.

Subsidising those already fully capable of paying for these things without even noticing? Why?


OliviaP Tue 17-Sep-13 18:02:25

Nick Clegg offering something free for students? Free Nutrition fees sounds like a familiar promise!!

feelthis Tue 17-Sep-13 18:03:03

I think it is a waste of money and food. The logistics of feeding hundreds of children will be a major staffing and physically logistical headache for schools. Would much rather have my child benefit back. My family's been totally shafted by this government.

feelthis Tue 17-Sep-13 18:04:39

And will be interesting to see what Scotland/ Wales and NI do with their budget.

Rooners Tue 17-Sep-13 18:05:26

There are people on what, 75 grand, 150 grand a year who will take this up. They don't need it like they don't need child benefit.

If they want to save parents money then they could scrap uniform in primary schools. That's a huge expense.

DaddyPigsMistress Tue 17-Sep-13 18:05:40

Our school meals by chartwells are pure shit. Tiny potions and stodgy.

purits Tue 17-Sep-13 18:07:36

This will save you £400 per year. Pah!
It is nothing compared to the extra £6,000 per year on student tuition fees that the LibDems voted through, reneging on pre-election promises. They will never get my vote.

Bumpstarter Tue 17-Sep-13 18:08:26

I imagine the idea is to start with the youngest children then roll it out to the older ones as time goes on - these things have to start somewhere.

That's what they want you to imagine. It makes more sense to start with the older children, IMO.

They want the school meals services to get a boost, and they hope parents will pay for them once they are in juniors, because the kids have had a good few years to get into the habit of eating them.

I think their dodgy logic needs to be challenged. They are spending a lot of money on the basis that the benefits the research saw when trialling THE WHOLE SCHOOL on free school meals will apply even though only HALF THE SCHOOL will be affected.

The greater the uptake, the better the meals can be, no.

I had a £2.20 school meal with the kids last term. I found it a thoroughly miserable experience. I hope the food improves.
When I was there, I looked at what the kids with lunch boxes were eating too. That was really crap.

littlemisswise Tue 17-Sep-13 18:10:07

Where has the money magically come from?

TiredFeet Tue 17-Sep-13 18:10:36

I think it is an ok idea, although I think the money could probably be better spent and this has been selected more because it is an easy vote winner

I also suspect that, despite my son being the right age, we won't be able to benefit from it. He has multiple allergies, some severe. His nursery manage to cater for him well, with healthy hot meals as similar to his friends as possible, but I doubt many schools are set up for this. I worry he will feel very socially excluded if he's the only one having to take a packed lunch.

It makes more sense to start with little ones - the older ones would revolt!

ihearsounds Tue 17-Sep-13 18:12:29

Wonder were the money will come from to pay for this.

Locally, it comes from the council tax which has been frozen for a few years now. Which of course has an impact on other services which has been cut.

It's been in place here now for at least 3 years. The meals, tbph, haven't improved.

Bumpstarter Tue 17-Sep-13 18:12:49

Bonkerz, I am really sad that people working long hours should be struggling so much, and absolutely agree that it would be fairer, if they can't make it universal in whole school, to raise the means test.

I also struggle to pay the school dinners, but I think having a square meal will improve children's concentration and learning far more than giving them a piece of fruit at break time, hmm

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 18:14:31

Brilliant idea as long as they provide high quality, healthy meals and ban packed lunches.

I will take it up, of course. We lost child benefit, but we are not rich. This potentially would save us over £80 a month.

I'd rather the child benefit of course.

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 18:16:43

It won't work unless they do what they did when I was at school. We had no packed lunches-you had the school one or you went home. It was very simple-no one had packed lunches.

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 17-Sep-13 18:22:44

They can't ban packed lunches.

twistyfeet Tue 17-Sep-13 18:27:22

Stupid idea. Why not just raise the FSM level and make it universal to 16? Rather than give FSM to the wealthy while cutting stuff to the poor. And how will they cater for allergies and specialised diets?
It's a vote attractor.

Why ban packed lunches. Who has the right to do that.

Bonsoir Tue 17-Sep-13 18:30:09

It's not the government's business to use tax revenue to feed small DC FFS...

perplexedpirate Tue 17-Sep-13 18:30:58

I don't really get this. Surely families who need the FSM are already entitled to them. Where are they means testing a previously universal benefit (CB) and making a previously means-tested benefit (FSM) universal?
How will the pupil premium be effected?
I don't know if we'll take them up as DS is vegetarian and a bit particular, but either way it won't make much difference to us.
If they banned packed lunches I'd be livid. What would happen to children with serious dietary limitations?

I would rather that it was targeted at lower income families. Ds will qualify - he eats anything so will probably be happy. Dd2 will just miss out, but she hates school lunches. It's not that she is mega fussy - just that she likes food cooked correctly. Both girls agree that the pasta is always v hard, the jacket potatoes aren't cooked properly, the sauces are dry and they both hate chips. If the standard improved then they might be more tempted. It is fine to have nutritionally balanced meals but if they are cooked to the point that they are inedible then it doesn't matter. When I have tried them they have been dire - and that on days when they are trying to impress the parents. I'll let ds try them but won't force him to have them.

Bonsoir Tue 17-Sep-13 18:34:04

I find English state schools increasingly grotesque....

LtEveDallas Tue 17-Sep-13 18:35:35

DDs school won't be able to do this confused. They don't have a kitchen and only have a very small assembly hall - most children eat in the classrooms. How will that work?

Rooners Tue 17-Sep-13 18:37:25

I'm intrigued that Chartwells do 'Tiny potions' grin

I would like to see that in practice!

TSSDNCOP Tue 17-Sep-13 18:41:36

Agree it's a great idea. Also agree it should be extended to juniors.

School lunch is compulsory at our school. There is a non vege and vege option and a two dessert choice. Drink is water.

All the children eat it, and the staff eat it with them.

lljkk Tue 17-Sep-13 18:47:08

If staff are eating with kids when do they get time to photocopy next lessons and just breathe & relax. It's still working hours, isn't it, so when do they get an actual break from work?

Don't really care about that. But my eligible child (current y1) is fussy. And he doesn't like to eat same thing every day. So probably he would have the packed lunch option, assuming they can make the exact same sandwich every day. Most of it would go to waste. Long list of things DS won't eat, including most veg and fruit.

perplexedpirate Tue 17-Sep-13 18:47:31

What happens to children with intolerances and allergies TSS?

ouryve Tue 17-Sep-13 18:48:13

> It was always properly cooked stuff too, like meat pies, and sponge and custard for pudding.

This is not the makings of a healthy dinner.

Trifle Tue 17-Sep-13 18:49:07

Why on earth should the tax payer cough up to feed other people's children. Where is the funding coming from. Ridiculous

Surely it's a half hearted effort to tackle childhood obesity and snack/junk door culture. Someone's got to.

I'm on the fence.

Snoot Tue 17-Sep-13 18:49:30

I suppose it seems a little unfair, especially to parents who've struggled to pay for school meals in their time. Can they not give something to the older children? Or extend the free fruit scheme to all pupils? It is however a fantastic boon to young parents who are struggling to pay for multiple KS1 children, I know I'd've been very grateful at that time of life.

insancerre Tue 17-Sep-13 18:51:00

I think it is a great idea

ouryve Tue 17-Sep-13 18:59:10

I wonder about that, too, perplexed. I have 2 boys with ASD and some severe food aversions tied in with that (including gravy, boiled rice, boiled, baked or roast potatoes, savoury pastry and custard, for DS1 - I can't even pay him to eat those things - and almost all vegetables and raw fruit for DS2). Added into the mix, we've got DS1 on an exclusion diet for probably abdominal migraines, which includes chocolate, cheese and citrus - that means he couldn't even have the veggie option, most days.

As for the social side, DS2 sits with a bunch of friends, who help him open things and chat with him (he's non-verbal) and they all eat their packed lunches together. DS1 can't tolerate the noise of the dining room, so eats his packed lunch in a quiet room with some staff and sometimes a friend.

They're in juniors, anyhow, but compulsory school dinners would be discriminatory towards them both and would mean that their diet was worse. DS1 would probably not eat at all, if he wasn't allowed to take a packed lunch in. DS2 would eat very little, as the portions are tiny, even without the high proportion of the meal that wouldn't be eaten.

fancyanother Tue 17-Sep-13 19:03:25

My kids school have most kids eating packed lunches in their classrooms. They have no space to feed all the kids in the hall. It would take them all day to feed the children in shifts. It is a massive school but with a tiny dinner hall. They have already had to build on the playground to accommodate an extra classroom due to the shortage of school places in our area. Will they have to build a new dinner hall, or provide packed lunches for those who want it? I would love to give my kids school dinners but i don't know what they eat, if anything and I don't want to be paying £10 a week, only to have to take a packed lunch for them to eat on the way home because they are starving, which is what I had to do when my DS1 was on school dinners.

Chusband Tue 17-Sep-13 19:08:52

I think it's a good idea as there seems to be solid evidence that diet affects concentration.

lljkk I promise I'm not picking on you but using what you said as an example - if your DS doesn't eat fruit & veg, then he's not going to eat it whether its on a plate or in his lunchbox. He'll just eat what he wants either way so it's the same end result IYSWIM?

Well it's just going to be a complete money pit. There can't be a school in the country who doesn't have a child with allergies. And I've eaten in enough canteens to know that they don't even know what a vegan is ( plate of proteinless salad covered in colesalw anyone??? or wouldn't think a chip wasn't gluten free. It's a bloody dangerous gamble to play with the kids health.

There are literally thousands of kids with special diets or who are diabetic or who are fussy or sensitive to tastes and textures who will come out of school starving and costing their parrbts a bloody fortune in their hungry snacking after they get home. Teachers will be dealing with sugar highs and lows as opposed to teaching.

The idea that anyone's safe option the packnlunchnwill be taken away by people who haven't a sodding clue how to deal with the effects of a child who hasn't eaten all day doesn't bare thinking about.

Increases absences and trips to drs anyone?

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 19:09:41

They can't ban packed lunches.

Why not? If they are providing a free meal then they don't need to.

Chusband Tue 17-Sep-13 19:09:59

Agree that there needs to be some provision for allergies. They either cater for it or allow said child to bring a packed lunch.

TerrorMeSue Tue 17-Sep-13 19:11:42

If all schools were forced to abide by the nutritional guidelines (which would mean inspecting the caterers), and if this were compulsory for all primary aged children, except those with specific dietary requirements that the school meals couldn't meet, then I think this would be an excellent idea. Improving the nutrition of primary children will actually save some money in the long term.

But, this is only half a baby step. Maybe it could be a step in the right direction?

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 19:12:16

They banned them when I was at school-I went from 5 yrs to 18 yrs in 6 schools and not one allowed packed lunches. Pupils could go home but otherwise they had a cooked school meal.

I'm not convinced by the nutritional content of school meals. For example the minimum average protein content at primary level is 7.5g source, but the recommended daily intake is 20g for infants and 28g for juniors source p4. No one has pointed out to parents what gaps need to be filled in nutritionally and there can be a tendency to think that they have had a good lunch so breakfast and dinner are less important. The meals seem really carb heavy with puddings and extra bread. I don't think more than 1 carb per meal is a great idea, particularly when many children will load on carbs and skip any fruit/veg.

My DD has packed lunches at nursery of a sandwich (protein filling), fresh fruit and a small full fat yogurt, I am careful not to give her too much sandwich/yogurt as she wouldn't eat the fruit if she could fill up on other stuff. I saw some surprising choices at her nursery which could be improved with FSM, but I don't think that school meals are always better than packed lunches. We also earn enough that I think the money could be better spent on other children. For example breakfast clubs for children who currently qualify for FSM.

No, I dont want it, in fact I feel very strongly about it, FSM for those who need it of course, but the money would be much better spent in other areas.

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 19:14:07

They would obviously have to cater for allergies. The whole thing is a complete waste of time and money if they don't have 100% take up.There would be utterly no point in doing it.

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 19:15:49

They would have to be like a school that I know and have all locally sourced food, they are so good the staff eat them and parents and grandparents can book in for a meal.

I think all school meals for all children should be free - like in France. I think we need to change the culture around food entirely

And that taxes should be raised to pay for it

lyndie Tue 17-Sep-13 19:17:53

Seems odd to take the Child Benefit away from higher earners and then give back another universal benefit, assuming children of higher earners will get it too? Worth £400 a year apparently.

TerrorMeSue Tue 17-Sep-13 19:19:58

The point about it being for everyone is about peer pressure to conform (eventually the vast majority of the fussy eaters will eat -and actually in areas that have tried it eventually isn't really very long wink. Then if it were compulsory throughout primary, the healthy eating habits would be built in on some level by the time children leave.

I'm sure many of us could put together better meals than the school dinners (even those that meet the nutritional standards), BUT that's to the point. If they meet the standards they are good enough, and significantly better than what many many children get now. For those children to benefit from the culture change and peer pressure etc then all must have them. It also removes any lingering issues of being a 'FSM' child. No-one could know if everyone has them. I'm not convinced allowing individuals to opt out will work, as the whole school effect will be very diluted, and indeed many of the children you might most want to benefit could opt out.

But my child won't eat it! Therefore I send her with a packed lunch which is nutritionally better than NOTHING. Just cos its free doesn't mean I have to have it.

misdee Tue 17-Sep-13 19:21:20

I wouldn't trust them them to cater for my child's allergies.

TerrorMeSue Tue 17-Sep-13 19:23:00

Breathes lowly - I think your point is a red herring. The children who most need this are allowed to go and buy handfuls of sweets for breakfast, and then left with toast and jam for tea. Having one good meal a day is better than a crap packed lunch and still a shit breakfast (or none) and shit tea.

Those who really care about balance across the week etc etc will go and look it up and work round it just like you did smile

halfpint76 Tue 17-Sep-13 19:27:09

Agree with other comments like why take child benefit away from some, which was always meant to be a universal benefit, only to replace it with another universal one like free meals where some families dont need it or would not want it. Use the money to make general cost of living cheaper for struggling families. Cynical it was also announced on the same day as the SCR for Daniel Pelka. Pure vote winning ploy.

OhDearNigel Tue 17-Sep-13 19:27:10

Well for me i am pleased as DD starts school ne t year and we would have paid for school meals as she wouldnt eat a packed lunch

I am however curious how they can suddenly find all this extra money

Pet food by law has to be nutritionally balanced and fit for human consumption. Doesn't mean you would eat it though does it.

Retropear Tue 17-Sep-13 19:27:45

Great- yet again we lose out.

What about older children?

My sister is on more than us but keeps her CB as they have two incomes,her kids have school dinners every day because they can afford it,ours never do.They're also getting help with childcare and married tax allowance.

We've started to lose CB,are 22 year unmarrieds, and have KS 2 children.

Why couldn't we have kept our CB instead?

mamaduckbone Tue 17-Sep-13 19:27:56

How can it make sense to make child benefit means tested and decimate school budgets on the one hand, and hand out free school lunches to all on the other?

Jaynebxl Tue 17-Sep-13 19:28:13

Absolutely ridiculous idea. Oh I know, let's pour 600 million pounds into providing free lunches for thousands of children whose families can afford it while taking more money than that away in so many cuts to people who actually need it.

lljkk Tue 17-Sep-13 19:30:47

I imagine sending packed lunches in for DS after all. He already cries if he doesn't like what we put in his lunchbox (I worked as MSA, witnessed that many times, I usually ran to far end of the room to let others deal with it!!). So I know how fussy he can be. DS is terribly stuck in his ways.
As long as they offer him the same meal every day & it's in the narrow range of stuff he eats, then fine. Great even, we'll save some money. I'm just nervous they'll serve up stuff he'll refuse to eat & cry & fuss a huge amount. Not going to be fun for the staff.

This is the child I got excited when he tried Wotsits. He's pretty against unfamiliar food His granny is just the same, whole ruddy family is proud of being stuck in their ways.

QueOnda Tue 17-Sep-13 19:31:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TSSDNCOP Tue 17-Sep-13 19:31:21

The staff eat their lunch, then have their break. New parents are invited to join the kids for lunch. They are delicious.

I'm guessing their must be something built in for allergies but TBH it can't be a major hassle for the cooks because their kitchen is tiny (kids eat across 3 sitting depending on age).

Is shit you not that within a very, very short time all the kids are eating their dinners and its quite amazing to see. As the DM of a super fussy eater I had to see it to believe it.

clam Tue 17-Sep-13 19:31:38

Someone mentioned way back about the "stigma" of free school meals. What stigma? I'm a primary teacher and even I have no idea about who qualifies for them (even though I'm supposed to know, as it is linked to those who qualify for pupil premium funding, which we have to prove the benefit from).
None of the other children/parents would have any clue.

BornToFolk Tue 17-Sep-13 19:31:46

I agree with Back too.
I don't spend a lot on DS's packed lunches (nowhere near £400! shock) so probably wouldn't notice any savings. I'm sure that what I send with him is healthier than he'd have at school. He's vegetarian and about 75% of the meals are Quorn-based. I really don't like the thought of him eating that much Quorn. His appetite can be quite up and down - when he's having a growth spurt, he'll eat masses and I'll pack his lunch accordingly and then pack less when he's not so hungry. Any uneaten food comes back so I know exactly what he's had.

Also, what's this going to do to family mealtimes? At the moment both DS and I have sandwiches at lunchtime so in the evening, I make a hot dinner (well, usually!) and we sit down at the table to eat together. If he's having a hot meal at lunchtime, he's not going to want a hot dinner so I'm going to eat by myself every night!

In short, I think I know better than the government about how to feed my son!

lljkk Tue 17-Sep-13 19:33:24

Why wouldn't he want a hot meal twice a day? I'd have it.
British people are so strange about their food conventions.
(This is exactly the problem I have with DS come to think of it)

TSSDNCOP Tue 17-Sep-13 19:35:31

We have a hot meal in the evening too. Kids eat at 12, they're starving again by tea time.

Our school posts the menu at the start of the week, only a few changes week to week so it's easy to avoid clashes.

Chusband Tue 17-Sep-13 19:37:52

I'd love to know if there's any evidence from the trials as to whether fussy eaters become less fussy when presented with 'this or nothing'. That would be interesting to know.

One thing I don't understand is the 'stigma of free school meals' that is always talked about on here. How do you know who gets them?! I would not have the first clue who is getting fsm's at DD's school.

I think it's a good idea and will benefit a lot of children though has clearly been thought out with the election in mind. We are lucky at dd's school that there is a kitchen onsite and the menu is varied and nutritional. She loves the 3 days she has school dinners, shame we'll miss out as she'll be in yr3 next year

BornToFolk Tue 17-Sep-13 19:39:42

Ok, fair point, he probably would eat two hot meals a day! But I stand by my other points and still think it's overall a rubbish idea.

mamaduckbone Tue 17-Sep-13 19:40:23

How can it make sense to make child benefit means tested and decimate school budgets on the one hand, and hand out free school lunches to all on the other?

It will benefit alot of kids. It will also make life difficult and miserable for alot of kids. Raise the FSM threshold and then those who it will benefit will be able to get it. And everyone else can feed their child how they want to within the stipulations given on school web sites

insancerre Tue 17-Sep-13 19:42:45

When my dc had school dinners we always had another hot meal in the evening.
I have on occassion eaten 2 hot meals a day too, and I'm a size 10.
I think the doubters should have a look here
the link describes Maslow's Hierarchy of needs
children need to have their basic needs met before they can reach their full potential
breakfast clubs at school are not just there so that parents can goto work earlier
the idea behind them is to make sure that children have had something to eat and drink before they start their school day- maslow again
the idea of free school meals is not really about families or budgets, it's aimed at individual children and helping them reach their full potential by ensuring they all ahve their basic needs met

TSSDNCOP Tue 17-Sep-13 19:43:28

Chus interesting point. In the case of the DC they eat everything at school maybe herd mentality, maybe because teachers eating too. No less fussy at home hmm

insancerre Tue 17-Sep-13 19:45:48

I'd love to know if there's any evidence from the trials as to whether fussy eaters become less fussy when presented with 'this or nothing'. That would be interesting to know.
don't know about the trials but in my experience of being a nursery teacher, yes children do become less fussy when presented with 'this or nothing'

lljkk Tue 17-Sep-13 19:46:58

My other DC aren't fussy because as toddlers we didn't allow them to eat anything else (even into the next day, they had to finish food from the night before kind of thing before they could have anything else but water). So the older 3 eat almost anything veg and 2 of them always loved fruit, too.

The youngest I was kind to & didn't force the issue. Consider it an experiment. And he is very fussy. Never took to fruit. Happily picks out fruit for others to fight over eat.

So yeah, Eat This or Nothing works. And the alternative encourages huge fussiness. But I had to be quite harsh about it. Nothing to be proud of??

perplexedpirate Tue 17-Sep-13 19:48:15

What's married tax allowance, Retropear?
I'm married and I don't get it. confused

Hassled Tue 17-Sep-13 19:48:57

I agree that raising the FSM threshold for all families from the current £16,190 would have far more of a positive impact.

And I certainly don't think families like mine, for example (although I don't have children that age), who are relatively comfortable and who don't struggle to fund the cost of packed lunches, should be given this perk. We don't need it - focus instead on the families with older children who may earn slightly more than the £16K but who could really do with it.

Bonsoir Tue 17-Sep-13 19:49:24

LaurieFairieCake - school meals aren't free in France. They are means tested, however, so there are often several possible price points for the same meal. Canteens are not large enough to feed all DC and DC with one SAHP are often required to go home for lunch.

Meglet Tue 17-Sep-13 19:50:26

The DC's school kitchen is able to deal with allergies. They just need confirmation from the peadiatric allergy team so they can adjust their menu. Every term they send me a personalised menu for DS with substitutes for any food he is allergic to (he'll eat anything as long as he's not allergic to it). There is a little rogues gallery of photos in the serving hatch with names and details of allergies.

However I'm not sure how it would work for severe allergies.

tethersend Tue 17-Sep-13 19:51:45

I just posted on the other thread-

The borough I live in (Tower hamlets) is trialling this for two years for reception and Y1 children only. I believe Southwark and Newham give free meals to all primary school pupils.

I'm very much in favour of this. And not just because DD is getting a free meal every day. I think schools should get enough funding to feed all of their children, regardless of income.

So basically anyone who suspected an intolerance and was conducting trials under their own steam would still be screwed as there was no drs letter?

misdee Tue 17-Sep-13 20:02:19

confirmation from paed allergy team? who are already overstretched and running 6-9months late with their appointments, to ask them to write another letter? or will the genral after appointment letter do? the one which we are still waiting for 4months after her appointment?

I will still rather pack dd4 own lunch everyday, then if I accidently almost kill her, at least then no one else is responsible for messing up.

siblingrevelry Tue 17-Sep-13 20:05:29

I have 2 children in KS1, and saving that amount of money would make a massive difference to our struggling household.

However, school lunches (at our otherwise excellent school) are crap. I have the menu before me (which they send out periodically to tempt the packed lunch kids):

Example lunches are:

Spicy wedge bake with mince
Fish fingers & ketchup (worded as such so ketchup sounds like a veg accompaniment)
Beany tomato pasta bake
Sliced beef in gravy
Pizza (two days)

Every day there are 2 choices, plus 2 choices of pud (ice cream/muller yoghurt-the artificially sweetened kind-chocolate cracknell/cookie/chocolate whip etc)

Initially these may sound healthy enough, but they are all 'open a box/packet, full of salt & sugar processed' junk. Sliced beef in gravy comes to the school as exactly that. There is no smiling dinner lady sawing off slices from a lovely, freshly cooked beef joint. She's re-heating the stuff that was pre-sliced and covered in gloop 2 years ago in the factory.

The obesity crisis won't be helped by feeding our kids more processed foods. This is why America has such a weight issue (check out most American recipes for home cooked food and they involve adding jars or packets of sauces etc). We need to stop thinking that when it comes to kids all fat and all carbs are good.

Unfortunately, school meals are too reliant on shipped in, pre-packaged food, so we'll have to be the minority and risk the wrath of my kids being singled out as the only packed lunch kids (they nag to go on hot dinners and it's no wonder-their mates eat smiley faces/waffles and wedges every day for lunch. Gets round the 'chips only once a week' ruling!)

We need to stop thinking of it as healthy just because it's hot.

Are they going to fund putting kitchens back into school which they removed when they did away with school meals in the 80/90's. As the only way to get better quality healthier food in for it to be prepared on site and fresh everyday. Not ready made meals.

Perihelion Tue 17-Sep-13 20:31:50

The last time I heard about the idea for free school meals for all was in 2002, when the Bill put forward by Tommy Sherridan's Scottish Socialist Worker Party, to the Scottish Parliment was rejected by Labour, Tories and Lib Dems.
If the food was any good I'd be all for it, for all school children. The shite served at DD's school when the parents were invited to try the dinners, made me give her packed lunches.
I'm totally cynical, but I think this is a sop to the "squeezed middle", but actually an incentive/bonus to the catering companies. As well as not thought free school meals for infants, in primary schools already bursting at the seams and due to get even more cramped in the next few years...quality catering or even more shipped in shite?

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 20:32:57

Although I think it a great idea, I think it is badly thought out. The food has to be good, it needs to be cooked on the premises - a lot will fail on both counts. Many simply haven't got room to all sit down.

And what about those who have a kid in reception and a kid in year three? Ones going to get a hot meal the other either has to pay for it (to ensure they both get one) or piss about later with two different meals. My dds wouldn't eat two hot or two heavy main meals so I'd have to do a cold tea for one and a main meal for one and a snack tea for the other which would be a bloody PITA.

hamptonedge Tue 17-Sep-13 20:40:23

It must depend on the area you live in, here in the South meals are cooked from scratch daily, 2 x roasts a week, pizza, fish on Fridays with potato wedges, no chips and no fryers in the kitchens. Homemade cake or biscuits for dessert. Salad and fresh bread always available as extras. Does mean that some children overload on carbs on pizza day as they choose bread as well but all in all balanced meals for £2 per day. No, I am not a school cook!

misdee Tue 17-Sep-13 20:48:27

this is the menu on offer to a lot of schools in herts.

siblingrevelry Tue 17-Sep-13 21:04:34

Misdee this proves my point. All processed, re-formed meat of some kind, or else stodgy food which has been mass produced and contains too much salt/sugar/preservatives.

And pudding every day? Whoever decided this was healthy for children is crazy. It's not good to associate a meal as finished once you've had something sweet.

misdee Tue 17-Sep-13 21:10:51

not great is it? as I said, dd4 (reception) has a packed lunch and will continue to do so. she has multiple allergies.

dd2 has school dinners from that menu just because I hate actually making packed lunches.

dd1 has school lunch at secondary school. its costs more, I have no idea what is being served, and just hope she makes a good choice. she often opts for meal of the day option as opposed to the fast food option, so hopefully its ok.

I saw that menu before. The mum was surprised and annoyed the kid chose the cold food.

It's an awful menu. If that was rolled out for free to everyone I'd still say no thanks

misdee Tue 17-Sep-13 21:18:06

yes, that was my sister grin a child in dd4 class choose the cold option today when her mum was there and her mum said no, have the hot food. i almost asked her if she was a mumsnetter and had read the cold food thread grin


My dd hated the vegetables. At home she eats load of them but can't stand mushy veg.

She likes actual food grin

ipadquietly Tue 17-Sep-13 21:24:48

Marvellous idea. hmm Especially as our FSM are sandwich lunches that the school has to source.

Just the ticket when vital CPD about the new curriculum is costing the school £90 for a 3 hour morning session. Perhaps the £600K money could have been better spent on government funded training for all the curriculum changes for primary and secondary teachers?

Words fail me.

telsa Tue 17-Sep-13 21:34:26

I'd rather keep my CB too. Still, we do have wonderful food cooked on premises, so it will be a boost not to have to pay for one of the children. Mind you, they are quite expensive in comparison to others, and I wonder if this subsidy will actually cover the costs of these meals, or if it is just a generic Sodexo style figure.

mam29 Tue 17-Sep-13 21:39:05

well this puts me in jolly awquard predicament next september.

Eldest loves school dinners.But to have whole weeks worth of school dinners works out at £35 a month.

So we comprimise and do 2days most weeks and in run up to pay day as we pay by cheque as no packed lunch stuff in house as waiting until get paid do a food shop.

Its just gone up to £1.80 per day was £1.75 bt just over border they pay £2.15 so thank mysel lucky.

Shes attended 2schools the first was quite large primary had own kitchen and each day she had a choice of 2dishes.

They have 4week rolling menu and give out leaflets/ website so parents can see what what.

Generally ours quite healthy council say is all locally sourced as checked all this when horsemeat thing came out.

But her new schools very small village school no room to build a kitchen so its made off site in nearby school kitchen.

downside is nightmare to get veggie option have to book days in advance.

upside is they must transfer 10%over so dd1 often gets 2nd helpings.

but next year dd2 due to start and dd1 year 4. They in same dining will mean we will have to fund school diners for her.
Then dd3 starts 2015 so if contunues will have year of payng dd1 as she will be year 5.

Most siblings attend all through primary and will resent this

noblegiraffe Tue 17-Sep-13 21:45:28

DS wouldn't eat the meals at his school even if they were free. Fusspot will still be getting a packed lunch.

exoticfruits Tue 17-Sep-13 21:48:53

It will interesting to see how this all works out- I can see trouble ahead.

LaGuardia Tue 17-Sep-13 21:59:39

When I was helping out at our junior school, I asked some of the pupils what they had eaten for lunch. One of the girls told me she only had a banana and an apple in her packed lunch because 'mummy didn't have time to go shopping'. That girl seriously needs a free school lunch. And so do thousands of other children.

OhDearNigel Tue 17-Sep-13 22:03:52

I suspect that some of this is also a kneejerk reaction to the shitstorm that will be unleashed over Daniel Pelka.

OhDearNigel Tue 17-Sep-13 22:11:53

Chusband, on your point re fussy eaters. Obviously only anecdotal. When i was small i would eat almost nothing apart from very plain, chicken based food. My mum would take me home for lunch as i wouldn't even eat a packed lunch. At 10 I then went to a girl's school where the choice was "this or nothing" and if you didnt at least try the meal you got no pudding. The food was awful but within reason i will eat anything. I doubt that would be the case if i had not gone to that school

Chewbecca Tue 17-Sep-13 22:16:43

In an ideal world, yes it is a good idea. But right now, I think it is a dreadful, vote grabbing proposal.
The beneficiaries of this proposal are not low income families (since, theoretically they will already be in receipt of FSM).
In Essex a consultation is currently out to save money by removing/reducing the provision of free school transport under a variety of circumstances, affecting primarily low income families.
It is madness to withdraw support from poor families to transport children to school at the same time as providing FSM for higher income families. That simply makes no sense to me at all.

niceguy2 Tue 17-Sep-13 22:42:52

It's a cautious welcome from me. But it seems rather stupid to me to spend £600m on free school meals when the country is utterly broke. So broke in fact that the govt had to save £1billion by cutting child benefit in a stupendously unfair way.

Noone wants to see hungry children but at the same time this is just a bribe to the electorate and a nod to the lib dems so they can point to something come election time.

For me I fear that now the economy is starting to pick up, the government will start to spend money in an attempt to regain votes when in reality we've done fuck all to reduce the deficit except piss a lot of people off.

Our kids will still be lumbered up to their eyeballs with our debt. And treating them to a couple of years of free school dinners isn't really going to be what they want to hear when they ask what the fuck we wasted all the money on.

longfingernails Tue 17-Sep-13 23:20:41

This is bad policy, though good politics.

There's no such thing as a "free" lunch.

lade Tue 17-Sep-13 23:29:50

I am opposed to the policy.

So people who survive on benefits are struggling to cope after having their benefits cut, because there is not enough money to go round.

Yet, the children who round here live in their half million to a million pound houses get a free school dinner simply by virtue of their age.

How is that right? I would rather see the money (if we have it spare) being used to help those who really need it, rather than wasting money on those who really do not need it at all.

Another ill thought through, wasteful policy that seems to have dominated the whole time the coalition have been in power. And again, those who really need the help are screwed over once again.

Another example of how this govt screws over the poor to help those better off. sad

skyeskyeskye Tue 17-Sep-13 23:34:29

I have just been trying DD in school dinners now she's in year 1. She is loving them so far and is eating a wide range of food even though she has always been a fussy eater. It will cost me £11 a week so free school meals would be great. I will only benefit for one year as it doesnt start til September.

It should be brought in for the whole school though.

niceguy2 Tue 17-Sep-13 23:36:03

It's just politician's being politician's and implementing policies that they think will be popular rather than in the long term best interests of the country.

I agree with LFN, it's a bad policy but good politics.

ReallyTired Tue 17-Sep-13 23:41:45

I hope that politicans will give the teacher the power to throw the heap of crap that some parents call a packed lunch in the dustbin and give the child a proper meal.

neolara Tue 17-Sep-13 23:47:58

My theory is that this is a way for the government to save money. Schools are allocated a large part of their budget according to how many children claim FSM. Once everyone gets FSM, the incentive for parents to let the school know their child qualifies disappears completely. Because schools don't find out all those who are eligible thet therefore cannot claim their full complement of Pupil Premium funding. Therefore the schools get less money. I didn't used to be a cynic......

happybubblebrain Tue 17-Sep-13 23:49:34

I agree with others. Help the people that really need it. Don't help the people that don't. Isn't that just common sense??? There is little point in giving everyone benefits. Buying votes are they?

HoopHopes Wed 18-Sep-13 00:19:17

What about children requiring special diets and where is the limit drawn for this? Will every vegan and vegetarian be catered for. All allergies. And those who require halal meat or to follow religious food laws that Jewish people follow? What will the consequences be of a child with a severe allergy be if the meal they are given outs them in hospital?

HoopHopes Wed 18-Sep-13 00:19:43


And what would the plan be at the schools where it's first fine first served. There have been loads of people in here saying that their kids lunches consisted of bread and rice because they run out of everything else by time they get to the front.

Even if it was free there's no way anyone would be happy with their kid having no actual lunch and stuck with left overs every day.

Leafmould Wed 18-Sep-13 07:38:37

Where is the research? I just can't understand why they have decided the infants are worth £600,000,000,000 more than the juniors.

exoticfruits Wed 18-Sep-13 07:44:01

It is quite clear to me, from the small sample on here, that it is doomed to failure. A great idea but will fall down on the practicalities.

I can't actually believe, given the thousands of stories on here of kids not eating, or still being hungry, shit lunches, or kids ending up with bread and water that the results of this research were entirely positive.

If they looked at a school in a poorer area where the packed lunches were appalling and the school had good quality food then that would explain it but that's not true of a large percentage of schools, many dont even have kitchens.

So yeah leaf your right. Where did this research come from.

I know kids on FSM who still take packed lunch 1/2 times a week on days where they don't like what's on the menu.

olgaga Wed 18-Sep-13 08:41:00

Take up of school meals is currently around 40%.

I agree with those saying many infant schools will struggle to feed more than half of their pupils. Most simply won't have the facilities or the space.

I think it's unworkable and nothing more than a cynical PR stunt for Nick Clegg's Lib Dem conference speech today.

ButThereAgain Wed 18-Sep-13 08:54:57

Apparently the report that states the academic advantages suggested by the three pilot areas under Labour recommends that the universal free meals should be for all primary pupils and that is should begin in the most deprived areas and be gradually rolled out. I wonder whether the LibDem adoption of free meals for infants will favour the most deprived areas in this way. If it doesn't, I will be more convinced about this announcement being an entirely cynical one to big-up the LibDems at conference and in the pre-election period, a bribe rather than a concern for education or welfare.

Certainly they seem to be announcing it in a manner that specifically emphasises their capacity to exert pressure on the Conservatives -- they stress that it was part of a quid pro quo, with Tories being allowed their tax break for marriage in return for infants' free school meals. That demonstration of influence seems to be the point of the initiative. I suspect that the marriage tax break will be a windfall favouring medium-to-wealthy income brackets. And the extension of free school meals to all income levels certainly does that. So the deal seems to represent a gift to the more-likely-to-vote wealthier segments of the population at the cost of poorer people (since the 600m has to come from somewhere and many cuts have disadvantaged the poorest).

I don't know what to think about the fact that the report was undertaken by a school catering company. It seems a rather warm and fuzzy business from the tone of its online presence, but that could easily be just a chosen marketing image and their report does seem a little bit like turkey farmers voting for Christmas.

ReallyTired Wed 18-Sep-13 09:14:10

"I agree with those saying many infant schools will struggle to feed more than half of their pupils. Most simply won't have the facilities or the space."

Schools have almost a year to plan for this. Prehaps they will have to have staggered lunch breaks, build a new canteen or take on more staff.

I think that there can be pockets of social deprivation even in the most leafy of areas. Its often at the posher schools where having free school meals is a stigma.

I think that having free school meals for every child would be ideal, but schools need time to plan this and phase it in. I think the practicalites of making free school meals universal for all children at once is difficult.

I am sure that this policy is a sweetener for the (long overdue!) abolition of child benefit in its present form.

Retropear Wed 18-Sep-13 09:37:04

It's just utterly unfair.My 3 are KS 2 so we won't be getting it.

When my dp does silly hours his wages come over the CB threshold,we're 22 years unmarried too.

Sooo we're losing CB,not getting free school dinners,no married tax allowance,no second tax threshold and we pay a higher tax rate.

Basically because we're not the a condems picture of an ideal family of two working,married parents with keystage 1 children we can go hang.

Basically families on a lot more are getting a stonking amount of extra money before you even factor in help with childcare.

girliefriend Wed 18-Sep-13 09:44:56

Are they going to force schools who currently don't provide a school dinner at all to ship them in? confused

Sorry if thats already been asked.

Otherwise I think its a really good idea but annoying as my dd (7yo) will have missed out. I have struggled to pay and still do for her school dinners as although we are on a tiny income (single parent) because i work p/t we aren't entitled to fsm.

crazykat Wed 18-Sep-13 09:45:13

Looking at my DCs school menu, over a week both my DCs wouldn't even eat the equivalent of one meal. It's not helped by the horrible plastic trays its served on. The menu itself is better than when I was at school but a lot is more what I'd eat like curry/chilli.

They aren't overly fussy for their age but don't like most of the menu. They don't like jacket potato which is on offer every day. They also don't like parsley sauce which is on at least on meal a week e.g. breadcrumbed fish and parsley sauce. Can't say I blame them as I can't stand the smell beer mind eating it.

The only way mine would eat anything is if there was a sandwich option or different menu.

I just can't see it working especially for allergies.

I think it's a really good thing to do - my DC have always had a school dinner as I feel it's a good healthy option, and better for them than a packed lunch (which are also a hassle to do every morning).
We always had school dinners back in the day, and I'm surprised how many have opted out these days.
I think removing any possible stigma of free school meals will be good too - I like the equality aspect of free dinners for all children (in KS1)
Hopefully this will mean more children having a good meal at lunch time, and help create healthier attitudes to eating for life.

sjm1980 Wed 18-Sep-13 09:49:51

Totally agree! Why give them for free to people who can afford them. I smell an election campaign....

BeCool Wed 18-Sep-13 09:52:10

I think they should spend more time ensuring the school meals are actually healthy before funding them for all. I'd like to see a ban on artificial sweeteners for a start, and the use of whole grains rather than masses of processed carbs. If they REALLY want to make school meals healthier these are fairly basic changes that make a big difference.

I do quite like the idea in principle - my DD (5) is very fussy and I think school meals and meals at nursery helped broaden her diet.

Overall I'm cynical about it though and see this as largely a headline grabbing political move.

shebird Wed 18-Sep-13 09:52:39

Instead of fee school meals for some they could have subsidised the cost of school meals for all primary children so everyone could benefit. I am also not convinced of the quality of school meals so perhaps the funding could have gone to schools to improve this while lowering costs to parents. Headline grabbing gimmick.

Retropear Wed 18-Sep-13 09:53:34

There is no stigma re school meals.

Dinner ladies,children and those getting them have no idea who has them free,paid online or cash in the office.

In theory it's a good thing but i wait to see the quality and nutritional content of them.
My worry is that you wont be allowed to send a packed lunch for your dc. (Days when they dont like the meals on offer, family circumstance etc)

i think the offer will be withdrawn (after the election) and schools will not allow a return to packed lunches. I can certainly see the letter now from school "we no longer have the facilities for your child to have a packed lunch. School dinners are now £2.50".

BornToFolk Wed 18-Sep-13 10:00:55

Schools have almost a year to plan for this. Prehaps they will have to have staggered lunch breaks, build a new canteen or take on more staff.

And where's the money to build canteens or hire new staff supposed to come from?

ChairOfTheBored Wed 18-Sep-13 10:05:37

I confess to not having read the full thread, so previous posters may already have raised this. But why dofamilies the government deem to not need CB need FSM?

I don't get how there's money for one and not the other? Don't get me wrong. If cuts have to be made, I'd rather DH and I 'lost' CB than it come from a pot affecting more vulnerable people, but I don't understand then giving the money back in this way?

My dds school doesn't have the kitchen facilities to cook. Food is brought in from external supplier ready cooked.

Retropear Wed 18-Sep-13 10:07:42

Ours can barely cope as it is with a huge kitchen.By the time the older ones eat(very late)they never get their choice and get half what the younger ones get as they're running out.

If the whole of ks1 are having a school meal there will be buggar all for the older ones whose parents will have paid for them.hmm

BikeRunSki Wed 18-Sep-13 10:11:12

As long as it does not impact on the quality and variety of school Mrs My eldest started Reception last week, the menu is amazing, and my previously reluctant eater is now eating everything in sight.

Having worked in schools I'd certainly agree with you that there's nothing you could call stigma about receiving free school meals these days.
Everything possible is done to treat all children equally.
Nevertheless I think free meals for all children in KS1 will have a positive effect in terms of equality for all.

I think there could be some social factors for some parents in choosing a packed lunch or school dinner, whether that's mainly the cost and perceived value of the meal, or possibly some people choosing packed lunch to show they're not on FSM ? Maybe that's crazy but packed lunches do seem to have become the done thing for a certain social group?

Dancergirl Wed 18-Sep-13 10:15:27

I think it's a good idea.

I like the idea of the children sitting down eating a meal together. I would do away with those awful long tables attached to stools and those prison style trays though. It should be a time where children are encourage to have good table manners. Staff should eat with the children to encourage this like in some private schools.

emuloc Wed 18-Sep-13 10:18:03

Why can they not start fsm as soon as possible. By the time they come in my dds will miss out. As usual the Government gets it wrong. How can they think its ok to offer half the children fsm and not the other half. Honestly this Government is full of half wits.

LIZS Wed 18-Sep-13 10:19:41

In principle a good idea . However on the back of CB cuts for higher earners then give them the equivalent (or more) in free meals hmm. What about those same children who still need it, perhaps even more so, when they reach 7+.

Ragwort Wed 18-Sep-13 10:23:52

I like the idea of the children sitting down eating a meal together - but it won't be like that will it? It will be canteen style with those prison trays - they are horrible - & shipped in meals; back in my day (the 60s wink) we did sit round - 8 to a table, with a dinner lady or teacher at each table, proper china and the food served from proper serving dishes on the table.

But the food was still disgusting, I can remember the taste of the fish in 'tomato' sauce to this day grin. Once I had to sit wth my brother for an hour because he wouldn't eat the lumpy custard, he finally ate it and was promptly sick all over the table.

This is just a publicity stunt, by all means raise the 'threshold' for FSM but it is a huge waste of money.

ringaringarosy Wed 18-Sep-13 10:26:33

Even if they were amazing i would still send a packed lunch,we all eat together at 6-7ish in the evenings,a proper meal with side dishes and a dessert,its been chaotic over the years as they are 5 4 3 and 1 but as they are getting older its something we really enjoy,the last year the change has been huge and i wouldnt want to stop that.

Chusband Wed 18-Sep-13 10:27:12

I'm not swayed by this argument about why give it to people who can afford to pay for it. You could apply that to anything - should people who can 'afford' it pay £10 for a GP appointment? Pay an hourly rate for the police's time when they're burgled?

There are some things that the state should provide free for everyone and most people would agree that education is one. I don't think it's outrageous that a hot, healthy meal for a small child is part of that education, particularly when it's proven to have a positive effect on the education itself!

ringaringarosy Wed 18-Sep-13 10:27:26

I keep hearing onhere how people think its wrong how high earners should get things like fsm etc,WHY?we put in more than most so why the fuck shouldnt we get something back?how things have changed....

missorinoco Wed 18-Sep-13 10:30:54

I would rather continue to pay for my school meals and keep the library open. This is not a vote winner for me.

HavantGuard Wed 18-Sep-13 10:31:31

I think it's a truly stupid idea.

Spending millions on free school meals for children who don't need them whilst leaving the parents of those that do struggling to feed them outside of school? How does that make sense? At the same time as cutting money to the most vulnerable, handing it to those that don't need it!

LIZS Wed 18-Sep-13 10:33:03

I agree with your ringaringarosy - our dc are too old to benefit from this , dc1 was too old for early years funding, both missed out on the child accounts and we have lost CB. Does the policy include private schools and nurseries?

wonkylegs Wed 18-Sep-13 10:33:47

I think this is a daft & expensive way they think they will get votes. Why are they subsidising people like us who can and do afford school meals, this is bonkers when severe cuts are being made elsewhere.
Our DS has been to 2 schools one in an extremely affluent area another in the polar opposite. The uptake for school meals was approx the same at both. Those more likely to opt out and have packed lunch at these two schools were middle class stay at home parents who didn't approve of the contents of the school menu and believed they could do better. FSM uptake was high where needed and tbh at infants age they aren't really aware about money to feel stigmatised. I think due to high levels of promotion by the LAs in this area the uptake is quite good.
The school meals are OK but not necessarily that great a quality and distinctly lacking in heading towards 5 a day. (school keeps insisting that raisins are fresh fruithmm ) I suspect if wider 'free' provision is made this 'ok' quality will drop.
Our DS has them because it's convenient and when I work and he's in a/s club it can give him a warm meal in a very long day.

Childhood obesity isn't just affecting the very poorest kids. It's everywhere. Parents don't seem willing or able to tackle it, so showing young children what good, nutritious food is, seems a good start.

Andro Wed 18-Sep-13 10:38:22

exoticfruits - I can't go into an are where something like pizza or lasagna etc has been cooked or is being served, the smell alone makes me violently ill and any tiny cross contamination would put me in hospital. Do you really think it would be right for an entire school's worth of pupils to be unable to have anything with cheese on because of someone like me? Never serving anything with cheese on it would be the only way to keep someone like me safe!

hlyon79 Wed 18-Sep-13 10:38:50

The schools all offer a vegetarian option everyday as part of their menu.
I think it is a good idea, but as usual you cannot please all of the people all of the time.
Regardless of wether somebody is classed as 'rich' or 'poor' why should there be a difference in how the child is treated.
We all (most of us anyway) pay our taxes, so why should we not have a little back for our children once in a while.

HavantGuard Wed 18-Sep-13 10:39:04

Changing the system so more children qualify for free school meals would make much more sense Ragwort.

I'm not anti high earners. I think that if we were in a different financial climate this might be a good policy with benefits for children's health. To do this now when food bank use has shot up dramatically is nonsensical. When there are people struggling to feed there children and the government is going to hand free food out, surely it should be targeted at those people.

It would have been the ideal time to help those who are just above the FSM threshold.

HeGrewWhiskersOnHisChin Wed 18-Sep-13 10:39:55

I'm a teacher and get to see the 'healthy' school meals served every day.

Both my children take a packed lunch to school.

They will be having a packed lunch next September too.

I'm not prepared to eat tasteless slop and I certainly wouldn't want my children eating it, whether its free or not.

Charlottehere Wed 18-Sep-13 10:40:21

I would much rather have cb back. The school dinners are crap.

Yes, I agree with you there euphemism

Vagndidit Wed 18-Sep-13 10:41:27

This idea is madness. Utter madness. There aren't enough places for primary students presumably because of a lack of planning or funding on the part of local councils. We're talking about millions and millions of that could be much better used for building bigger/more primaries, hiring necessary teachers, providing funding for special needs, reading interventions, etc, etc, etc...Yet they want to spend it on jacket potatoes and veg curries for all? (foods that my very picky kid would turn his nose up at, btw...)

I'll happily give the £400 back to the government if it provides my child's school with additional resources.

It's never going to accommodate everyone is it?

My DDs school meals are shipped in, they very rarely serve meals she can eat due to her lactose intolerance. They can't redo all their menus just to suit her as there will be other children with their own allergies/intolerances/moral/religious dietary requirements they make meals for and it isn't possible to accommodate everyone and be healthy in a pre-packed meal.

So basically it will be free for kids who don't have special diets only.hmm

ShadeofViolet Wed 18-Sep-13 10:43:23

My DS will still be having a packed lunch because of SN. Luckily he will be in year three otherwise it would just be something else to make him different from the rest.

ShadeofViolet Wed 18-Sep-13 10:47:35

Have not read the whole thread and don't know if this has been mentioned, but schools are awarded Pupil Premium funding based on the number of children who have FSM. Is this a way of getting rid of the pp by the back door?

Ill be In the same boat there tewi dds are dairy free. I have no drs letters as its my choice as I feel it's keeping them healthier. Dd1 was intolerant as a baby/toddler but due to speech delay I have opted out of reintroducing fully because she won't be able to tell me how she is feeling. Obviously that will change eventually butshe gets a good diet and milk products won't change that so I choose to continue. With the current menu there will be at least two days where she can't have anything. And no puddings at all aside from the odd fruit salad. The only safe options will be the sausages and mince but that leaves her eating processed shite too often and ending up with plain rice baked beans or pasta.

How it would be of any benefit to her when she would be having home made curry, stir fries, stews etc at home I don't know.

Some people have said it is expensive but I think it's very likely that it will pay for itself in the long run through improved education in healthy eating in the children as they grow up, and therefore improved well-being and health into adulthood.

It's just a shame that governments don't take a long term view more often, especially in health and education
- even here it is probably the short term vote winning aspect which is motivating them.

And of course if the sausages are all gone she gets nothing but bread and any remotely edible salad

HavantGuard Wed 18-Sep-13 10:52:16

It's directly targeted at a specific group of voters. Just like the Conservatives finding millions for councils to do weekly bin collections at the same time as they were squeezing them on every other expenditure.

If the Lib Dems were on the Titanic they wouldn't be rearranging the deck chairs they'd be recovering them in a range of Orly Keily fabrics.

HavantGuard Wed 18-Sep-13 10:52:24


Clumsyoaf Wed 18-Sep-13 10:53:14

I dont know if this point has been made already - but what if you have two children one over 7 and one under - parents will feel pressured to pay for the older one. I dont think i could send my child in with a packed lunch every day knowing the older one has a packed lunch. School dinners are a luxury for some....

HavantGuard Wed 18-Sep-13 10:54:23

It's not the cost, it's spending the money on that now when people are struggling to feed themselves and their children.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Wed 18-Sep-13 11:12:17

have the people who are saying "they should spend the money on educating our children rather than food" read the bit about schools that have piloted this finding that the children's development is being positively effected by the change??

LimburgseVlaai Wed 18-Sep-13 11:14:09

In DDs small village school the problem will be lack of space.

The children who have a school dinner cram into one classroom, which is then pretty disgusting for the rest of the day (spilled peas and gravy on the carpet, smell of food). The packed lunch children usually eat outside unless there is a gale or a blizzard, which means they get more fresh air and their classroom doesn't stink afterwards.

The food is brought in ready-cooked because there are no cooking facilities - so I'm not sure just how healthy it is.

So on the whole, yet another idea designed to win votes but not thought through at all.

Littleen Wed 18-Sep-13 11:16:24

Wouldn't want this unless the school had a strong focus on healthy food! I know a school that feeds the kids dessert after every school dinner, and that imo is insane!

Surely it won't get through any way, but it means when over half the children are obese which is where we are heading- the lib dems can say, well, we tried...

hermioneweasley Wed 18-Sep-13 11:18:35

It's complete bollocks, in my thoughtful and considered opinion.

TabbyT Wed 18-Sep-13 11:19:29

This is a completely daft idea. Those who cannot afford meals already do get them free. It is crazy to subsidise those who can afford to pay. My DD will benefit next year but we can afford to pay so it's crazy when cuts are being made elsewhere and the country hasn't got enough money.


But please tell me that you can see that in MANY cases it will in fact also ensure many kids have a WORSE diet.


The kids can't eat the food- allergies, ASD, it tastes shite etc

Menus can be highly processed

Many kitchens can't cook food so it's brought in- mush anyone?

There will be merely dregs left for those higher up the school.

Study basically proved a good lunch equals better performance. No shit Sherlock - now of course all schools serve a good lunchhmm

And tbh all those kids eating biscuits and left over mcDs for lunch , even the school slop will be better ergo a positive result.

Leaptheditch Wed 18-Sep-13 11:22:03

I would prefer to see more children qualifying for fsm and then more money put into the quality of food.

Our primary changed provider to avoid tiny, cardboard, oven baked horrors but the new meals though better are still Uninspiring. My children take pack lunches.

When we lived in France the meals were ordinary food-fish, veg, soup, salad etc. they were excellent. I don't know how they were funded but they were popular and miles away from our hideous reformed meat and fish with optional veg efforts.

iloverainbows Wed 18-Sep-13 11:28:42

I just can't see how anything about this is good. Whilst the overall sum is huge when you break it down it will be basic funding which will mean very basic cheap food. The meals will almost certainly be full of fat, sugar, gm foodstuffs, preservatives, colours and additives.

Unless you are giving children a healthy meal of good quality protein, well prepared and cooked vegetables and good carbs there won't be any advantage, they are simply being filled up with food devoid of nutrition. Many overweight children are actually starving because they are not getting adequate nutrition. Eating this type of food has shown to be bad for behaviour and learning.

That aside we seem to be on a slippery slope of pre-school and schools taking responsibility and control away from parents. This is not a good thing. If people are struggling to feed their children or they can't be bothered to put a decent packed lunch together then more needs to be done to change this within the family environment. First it was breakfast, now its lunch, I wonder how long it will be before children are staying at school all day and being given their dinner/tea too.

SoonToBeSix Wed 18-Sep-13 11:33:23

Clumsy that doesn't make sense if are getting a school dinner free for one child then you can use the money you save in not making two pack lunches to buy a dinner for your older child.
If you are saying that your dc packed lunch costs less than half the price of a school dinner I would be interested to know what it contains.

breadandbutterfly Wed 18-Sep-13 11:45:52

Not possible in my kids' school - there is no kitchen, only a small hall and no possibility of extending the site as it is built on green belt land. So the only way this would be possible there is if meals were prepared elsewhere and bussed in - seems very expensive.

Apart from the logistics, I'm broadly in favour of all primary kids being given free dinners, provided they are nutritious and tasty and preferably hot, as it would ensure kids get at least one good meal a day (lots of dcs' friends seem to live off jam sandwiches and crisps for packed lunches despite middle class parents), help learning, allow kids to develop good table manners eg eating with cutlery, sitting down at table, introduce them to broader range of food etc.

BUT the policy is flawed as
a) only for younger kids - arguable older kids need it more
b) unaffordable - if the whole lie about austerity is to be believed.
c) feasibility not thought through as to how this will actually work in practice eg my first paragraph, kids with allergies, staffing and building costs etc.
d) suspect the food will be cheap, unhealthy and nasty anyway - as of course not being fed to Osborne or Clegg's children, who needless to say, will not be at state schools.

I think it is a great idea but should not just be for the younger kids. I also think there should be greater transparency of what ingredients are going into the meals, just to make sure that they are healthy.

I agree that families that can afford it should pay for the school meals and those that cant should be the ones to benefit from this service.


It was phased out years ago apart from very elderly married couples born (or married?) before a certain date that would make any recipients of the tax allowance probably in their 70s now at least.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

I think this idea is crap. My younger son just went into KS2. We have sent them both with Packed lunches for years, even though the meals are fabulous (£1.90 per day) at our school, because for us school dins would be nearly £20 per week and I do very basic packed lunch for much less and we also always have a made-from-scratch meal every night so they are not missing out nutritionally by not having a hot meal at lunchtimes.

I agree with other posters who say the threshold should be raised. For example I dont' think you automatically get FSM if you are in receipt of working tax credit (as opposed to the child tax credit part). Now as only low earners get WTC, they could raise the FSM threshold to include those families.

and/or subsidise the school meals more so that they cost say £1 per day, with FSM available to people on benefits and WTC, but so that the cost is easier for other families to put their children on school dinners.

For this to be across the board including the most well off families, well words fail me. Or maybe the govt thinks that the better off families all have their children at private schools....

SpinCycle Wed 18-Sep-13 12:04:18

breadandbutterfly sums up my feelings extremely well.

Whilst in theory this might apeal, the reality of school food ime is appalling. At my DDs primary they serve what is effectively a sandwich 2 days a week anyhow - dressed up as a 'wrap' on the menu. On the days when some attempt at cooking is made, the token 'vegetables' come in the form of baked beans and sweetcorn more often than not.

There is even one day when they are offered 'nachos' as a main meal - yep. They actually serve crisps as a main meal, with added cheese and gunk just to enhance the calorie count??!!!

I only pay for the school meal when it is something sensible like the roast dinner day. Even then chips occasionally creep in. (No objection to chips every once in a while, but with a roast is pushing it).

If this policy goes ahead then they need to pay more than lip-service to controlling the quality and content of what is provided.

exoticfruits Wed 18-Sep-13 12:04:49

I think that they must get rid of those horrible 'prison' trays. They need to serve one course first, on proper plates, clear away and then have pudding. It would really put me off to be all served together.

exoticfruits - I can't go into an are where something like pizza or lasagna etc has been cooked or is being served, the smell alone makes me violently ill and any tiny cross contamination would put me in hospital. Do you really think it would be right for an entire school's worth of pupils to be unable to have anything with cheese on because of someone like me? Never serving anything with cheese on it would be the only way to keep someone like me safe!

While I have every sympathy I don't see how you would cope at the moment. You get the same smell whether you cater for 40% of the school or 100%, and the majority of schools that I have been a supply teacher in have the cooked meals and the packed lunches in the same hall. Depending on the size of the school you can often smell what is for lunch in the classroom. They are going to have to have a vegetarian option so cheese is often on the menu.

It is a lovely idea to have everyone sitting down together with a healthy, well cooked, locally sourced meal but I can't see it happening.
They need all schools to have their own kitchen and staff.
They need to make sure it is as good, or better, than you would get at home.
It would help if staff could join them but teachers simply don't have time to sit and take time for lunch.
They need a big hall.
They need to cater for allergies.

Very few schools could manage all that.
I hope that the 'powers that be' are actually looking at MN for reactions to the announcement.

SoupDragon Wed 18-Sep-13 12:09:07

As I said on another thread, I think it is a stupid idea and ill thought out.

sillyoldfool Wed 18-Sep-13 12:09:17

But flippertigibbet it's been stated that the lib dems getting the FSM for all infants is in exchange for them not blocking the conservatives putting through a new married person's tax it may well be back before the election.

Loa Wed 18-Sep-13 12:12:09

I don't know if this point has been made already - but what if you have two children one over 7 and one under - parents will feel pressured to pay for the older one.

Next year I'll be in this position. I could still send the youngest in with packed lunch but I can see take up in this area of a free meal being quiet large - lots of working poor or struggling and wouldn't want her left out.

If I could get the older two DC to understand - They have asked for dinners in past but we've been unable to afford long term - it still leaves the issue of the evening meal and how to account for one having had a cooked meal at dinner and other two not.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Wed 18-Sep-13 12:14:01

the food at dd's school is actually pretty good, but I would not take them up on this partly because

1. we don't need fsm. Ok, we're not especially well off but I can still stretch to packed lunches that are certainly healthier than school meals (would probably not pay the £10.25 per week for lunches but might in an emergency, although we can only do a week at a time). I agree that the limits should be raised so more children qualify though, definitely.

2. dd wouldn't eat them anyway. At least with packed lunch I can send her with stuff that is healthy and that she will eat. She really struggles when she has not eaten enough, but is rather stubborn....

3. we do cooked meals in the evening, and I don't really want her eating the same sort of thing twice.

I appreciate that not all packed lunches are healthy, and certainly that not all families can afford them and/or cooked meal in the evening - which is why the current system should be extended rather than a blanket provision covering everyone. I would hope that there would be an opt-out (this sounds suspiciously linked to the thing a few weeks ago about a potential ban on packed lunches....).

Andro Wed 18-Sep-13 12:16:35

exoticfruits - I had packed lunches at (private) primary (and ate in a separate room with a none cheese eating friend), my meals were separately prepared at boarding school and again I had special permission to eat in a separate room with a friend. Now I can see a top notch fee paying school being able to accommodate allergies and having sufficient staff to do so safely, I'm less convinced that a typical state primary would have the space, staff (with training) and duplicate kit required to cater safely for multiple allergies.

LEMisdisappointed Wed 18-Sep-13 12:19:39

Its a great idea, that i would welcome, although DD is in juniors now. We are on a low and variable income but not entitled to free school dinners, sometimes we really struggle.

BUT There is talk of school dinners being compulsory - NO THANKYOU! My DD doesn't like the roast dinners on a wednesday (she loves my roasts <preen>) so she takes pack lunch. You cannot force a child into school dinners if they don't want it.

froubylou Wed 18-Sep-13 12:20:36

I'd rather they make a real effort to raise the 4 out 10 children who are in poverty and don't qualify for FSM's out of poverty to be honest.

That means that 4/10 or 40% of children in poverty are from working families who earn enough to not qualify for certain benefits.

Why the fuck are families working to stay in poverty? Or why doesn't work pay anymore? How in 2013 in a developed country do we have kids living in poverty when their parent/s work?

Its shameful. The cost of living goes up and up and up and up whilst income for many has reduced or at best remained static. People can't afford to put their heating on over winter whilst power companies make millions in profit. People can't afford to pay their rent and end up homeless or living in squalor whilst landlords claim £100's in HB or rent and pay peanuts on their mortgages as rates are so low?

Tis all very, very wrong.

exoticfruits Wed 18-Sep-13 12:22:27

I am not even slightly convinced Andro-most wouldn't.
However, it would be a problem even if there were only 10% take up of cooked meals or if it was all packed lunches because I would imagine that over 50% might have cheese in them. Many primary schools are far too small to have a room that could be smell free.

Kaekae Wed 18-Sep-13 12:24:07

I have one child DS who is in year 2 and one DD who is in nursery, so she will benefit next year but we won't be taking up the offer. My son hated the school lunches and always ended up eating two crackers, a little cheese and two carrot batons. I can give him all that plus more variety and more food in a packed lunch. He has a hot meal every evening at home.

I don't quite understand the whole process of removing child benefit for some to then give free school meals to everyone? This will not change how I vote that's for sure.

exoticfruits Wed 18-Sep-13 12:25:15

You cannot force a child into school dinners if they don't want it.

You are not as old as me! They did-unfortunately I remember it well.
I agree it would be impossible these days as people are used to packed lunches.

exoticfruits Wed 18-Sep-13 12:27:06

I hope that those making policy are reading-it appears to me to be a great idea bound to certain failure-therefore the money could be used more beneficially elsewhere.

Bunnyjo Wed 18-Sep-13 12:33:21

On the face of it, it looks wonderful. With one child already in school (who won't benefit from this) and another due to start school in 2015 (who will benefit), what's not to like...

However, 4/10 families live in poverty, despite not being entitled to FSM. Under this proposal, a single mum earning around £12k, and therefore be entitled to WTC, will not be entitled FSM for her junior aged child(ren). BUT, a wealthy family on £100'sK per year can get 3 years FSM for their infant aged children?!

Utterly, utterly bonkers - this proposal is highly unfair and ill thought out. If there is to be an increase on FSM provision it MUST go to those families who need it. Surely, with the roll-out of universal credit let's not go there shall we it will be easier to ascertain which families are in poverty or close to the poverty line, therefore the Govt. could target those families for an increase on FSM provision...

breadandbutterfly Wed 18-Sep-13 12:41:06

Well said, Kaekae - it is the irrationality of this policy that really infururiates me.

If we are tooooo poor to give all parents child benefit, soooo poor that we have to introduce the bedroom tax, send people who are disabled/dying back to work to save a few bob, etc, then logically, we cannot poooosibly afford to give free school meals to all the children of the rich.

If, conversely, we can afford 600 million easily (no-one has said where the money is being taken from, as far as I'm aware), then we can also reverse all of those policies.

Let's spell it out clearly.

It is a pre-election BRIBE aimed at women esp mothers who the coalition are well aware are really effed off with their policies. Indeed, given yesterday's news that Mumsnet mums don't like the coalition, this policy is probably aimed fairly and squarely at US.

Well guess what, little coalition minion reading this thread to report back to your masters - Mumsnet readers ARE NOT THAT STUPID and don't think much of it.

If you want to go the whole hog, go after the big tax evaders, get the money back off the bankers, restore the welfare state to its former glory, lower the cost of housing by ending Help To Buy/QE, etc I'll be right behind you.

But don't think that one teensy weensy illogical and ill-thought-through bribe is going to make the slightest difference to my voting intentions. The Coalitions policies overall are violently anti-women and anti-family. This does not change that.

Iwaswatchingthat Wed 18-Sep-13 12:47:34

I am gutted I am missing out on this as my children will be too old. It would have saved me a fortune.

choceyes Wed 18-Sep-13 12:50:14

I think it's a stupid idea. They should just raise the FSM cutoff to include less well off families too if they want to make sure all kids get a meal at school.

My biggest bug bear is that school meals aren't that healthy. So even if a child who has a substandard packed lunch gets a school meal from next year, who's to say that the school meal is any better and hence they are better fed?

If the school meals are healthy, yes it is a very good thing. But serving kids processed crap with unhealthy amounts of refined cards is not that different from an unhealthy packed lunch....unless of course the packed lunch contained just a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.

If there was also a move to make school lunches healthier, then it is a vote winner for me.

My DS who started at reception eats school meals. But I'm thinking of sending in packed lunches from next month because, the meals sound too processed, they get white bread on the side (which DS LOVES) and also sponge and custard every single day. Too much carbs. I bet the protein and veg portions are tiny as well.

But from next year if this free school meals for all does work out, then my worry is that if I opt to send in DS (and DD next year too) with a packed lunch, they would be one of the very few children taking in a packed lunch and they would feel a bit "err why am I the only one eating a packed lunch when all my friends are eating school dinner" I dunno.

Holly6 Wed 18-Sep-13 12:54:50

I agree that school meals in my opinion, and my kids are now 12 and 14, often have a 'healthier option' or the child could just as easily choose a chip butty !! I don't think this is ''healthy'' at all. I have had to pay when mine wanted school meals in the winter months and then swapped to sandwiches in the warmer summer months. Honestly, if children are brought up to have a wide range of tastes when young, so are not fussy and only eat junk food, then a child who has a healthy breakfast and a ''proper'' balanced dinner with their parents at home later on is the ideal. Half the time it's parents that need educating .

pixiepotter Wed 18-Sep-13 12:54:53

Blantant unsusutainable election bribe which the incoming govy will have the task of axing.

Flossiechops Wed 18-Sep-13 12:56:41

I think it's possible one of the most ridiculous ideas the even more ridiculous ConDems have come up with. NHS budgets being cut, bedroom tax, benefit system over hauled - NO WAY should free non means tested school meals be a priority at this time to the tune of £600 million! Bonkers utterly bonkers!

Flossiechops Wed 18-Sep-13 12:58:01

Btw - my dc are now juniors and I pulled them from school dinners last year having sampled the utter crap quality of the meals provided by Birmingham City Council. Healthy school dinners? Pah

DespicableWee Wed 18-Sep-13 13:01:19

I may have missed it, but has anyone questioned what will happen to the pupil premium currently paid out to schools for every pupil eligible for FSM? In my area, all schools ask parents to claim for FSM if they think theymaybeentitled to them, even if they have no intention of using them as the school gets a premium payment for each child on the roll who is eligible.

Will there be a change in how that entitlement is worked out, so perhaps parents will need to provide proof of income/benefits to obtain this premium? Or will it be scrapped altogether? How much will that cost schools in more deprived areas? Will their budgets be increased to reflect this loss or will it create--more of-- a clear divide between schools in more affluent areas and those in more deprived areas? The knock on effect of a loss of income for those schools has the potential to be much more far reaching and damaging than the benefit of a few more kids getting a hot meal at lunch has the potential to improve lives.

Yes watching - we'll miss out by a long way as my DC now at secondary, but DNeice has just started in reception so I'm thinking of her.
My DC have enjoyed school dinners (only think DS tells me about is what was for pudding!!) and have done well with two healthy hot(ish) meals a day throughout primary.
I think there can be a problem if people think growing children only need one good meal a day. (Several posters saying that their family eat a good meal together in the evening)
Personally I think a good meal at lunch is no bad thing as well!

Too many thinks there - and some in the wrong place!

Iwaswatchingthat Wed 18-Sep-13 13:15:13

Agree - I love it when my dds come home and say they have had lasagne or shepherd's pie or something similar, especially on cold winters days.

My two have also tried more stuff at school. They have a band system now so they get to choose at the start of the day then are guaranteed they will get their choice of meal.

So when is this going to start ?

Iwaswatchingthat Wed 18-Sep-13 13:26:03

I think September 2014

BadlyWrittenPoem Wed 18-Sep-13 13:27:38

"^At the moment free school meals are available to all children whose parents are on benefits or earn less than £16,190 a year.^"

They must have changed the criteria as last time I checked you had to be earning less than £16190 and not be getting working tax credit. It means people with a higher income than mine can get them just because they work fewer ours or don't earn their income.

Yes but ASWELL is t always a given is it, I mean with my dds it's either/or

Dd1 picked at her school lunches filled up on bread and eggs and a massive pudding. It was enough to fill her up too much to eat anything remotely enough in the evening for me to make the difference up.

Dd2 seems to be the same way. They need a light lunch and a proper dinner (hot or cold)

Not a shitty school meal that leaves them able (after eating the bread and pudding) to only eat a couple of crackers and an apple for tea.

Thanks I was watching that

Well I think it's a ridiculous waste of money

BadlyWrittenPoem Wed 18-Sep-13 13:30:17

And surely if they want to "put money back into the pockets" of parents who are feeling the pinch, why not just increase benefits so that they can have the money to use themselves. It's very nany state and discriminates against those who are home-educating who are more likely to be on a single (and therefore lower) income. Or do home-educated children not matter?

NorthPolo Wed 18-Sep-13 13:30:38

We are the type of family this is aimed at - eldest due to start reception next year but I don't agree with this at all. I would much rather have a flexible system of being able to choose on the day if you are having a school meal or taking a packed lunch and for the price to be lower for the meals. We are not well off but could afford to pay for meals if they were of the standard provided at nursery and would much rather the money went to those who really needed the help, particularly those working just over the fsm limit.

When I just started reading this thread I thought well at least it will be one less job to do each day if dd1 has a school meal, how bad can they be? I went on the website to check and actually do think they look pretty bad. Could anyone take a look and see how it compares with your area please? link All the schools listed have the same menu.

It appears to be possible to have some form of pizza, burger or sausage every day with bread and pudding. Wow. I'm not a great chef but try not to serve salty processed meat or let the dc fill up with bread, freezer food and puddings (too often). The school we want to apply for has a two week notice period for giving up school meals and switching to packed lunches so it really would be all or nothing.

southwarkresident Wed 18-Sep-13 13:34:32

Namechanged as this might out me - here in Southwark (deprived London borough) we already have free school meals for all children (last year was to Yr4 I think, this year all primary school children). From what I remember when looking at schools it was usual not to allow packed lunches for the years that received free school meals. The 'normal' allergies (peanuts for example) seem well understood and catered for. Our school has a kitchen and operates what appears on paper to be a reasonable menu - on my to do list for this term is to pop in at lunch time to see for myself!
I am pleased about this more for the 'social cohesion' aspect than the nutrition or the cost - I have a healthy scepticism about the nutrition but think it is good for children to be introduced to a wide variety of food and to see others enjoying food that they may be initially doubtful of. Similarly to wearing school uniform I think the more children have in common at school the better. also saves my sanity needing to buy lunchboxes everytime DC lose theirs or want a different one

What a waste of money. We have four children - the middle two will qualify for the school meals, we can't afford school dinners for elder DD so she'll have a pack-up and I'll still cook a full evening meal for her, pre-school DC, myself and DH. Ridiculous that I'd cook for 4 members of our family, but have two who would have had their main meal of the day already and prob not want much more than a piece of toast, and then we'd have arguments about who got what. Much better for the whole family to eat our main evening meal together as happens at the moment.
Spend the money on something more worthwhile please.

MagratGarlik Wed 18-Sep-13 13:39:05

My DS2 has multiple allergies and carries an epipen for his milk allergy. Tbh it took us a while to find ways to make meals which were not just endless rounds of pasta and chips, but which accounted for his allergies. He also needs a high fat diet because he is very underweight and this in combination with his allergies (which include almost all traditionally 'healthy' high fat foods) mean I would not trust the school to provide a meal each day which was nutritionally adequate for him.

As others have said, schools should get on with the job of educating and leave the nutritional decisions to people who have knowledge and training in nutrition.

ReallyTired Wed 18-Sep-13 13:41:20

Its clear from this thread that the standards of primary school food is variable. DD's school has excellent food and they have never run out. The children pick what they want in the morning and are given a coloured wristband. The meals are then cooked to order.

Ds's secondary school has a caferia system and its awful because the children who are last often have nothing but rice or bread with a few manky carrots. I also find it shocking that a secondary school child can get away with buying nothing but chips. Hence ds has a packed lunch.

I think that the standard of catering should be assessed for schools which have more than 200 children as part of OFSTED.

NewBlueShoesToo Wed 18-Sep-13 13:43:39

I taught in one school where the caterers also provided a packed lunch style lunch alongside the hot food. They were delicious. Choices of baguettes, mini quiches, vegetables and humous. Maybe that could be an option.

I do think that the lunch hour should be made a bit longer and teachers should sit and eat with the children. It's part of their education- using a knife and fork, trying new things, chatting with friends. Some children do not get this at home and food is such a good way to bring people together. However, the food would have to be good quality.

NewBlueShoesToo Wed 18-Sep-13 13:44:36

There must be huge potential for new catering businesses if it all happens. Hmm.....

MagratGarlik Wed 18-Sep-13 13:52:00

nice idea, but... baguettes? no, ds2 can't have them (gluten)
mini quiches? no, ds2 can't have them (milk + gluten)
humous? no, not that either (pulses)

He would be left with vegetables - but, he needs a high fat diet. A few veggies is not going to give him sufficient calories.

If he would have to take in a packed lunch whilst all the other children around him eat school provided (and paid for) food, he's going to feel even more isolated because of his allergies. Where would the education about the 'healthiness' of eating together come from for children like him who would be excluded from this social experiment due to what basically amounts to a disability which he has no control over.

Viognier Wed 18-Sep-13 13:55:28

NewBlueShoes - your school sounds wonderful but not the reality for most of us unfortunately and I think we can guarantee the quality is not going to be good in school; it's going to be the cheapest.

We eat organic wherever possible and that is certainly not ever going to happen.

Viognier Wed 18-Sep-13 13:56:24

As someone upthread said, leave the education to the schools and the nutrition needs to the parents please.

Retropear Wed 18-Sep-13 14:03:11

Hmm isn't Gove friendly with the Dimbleby restaurant chain bloke who was advising him.Wonder who will get all the new catering contracts.<scratches chin>

ReallyTired Wed 18-Sep-13 14:06:57

"As someone upthread said, leave the education to the schools and the nutrition needs to the parents please."

However there is strong evidence that some parents are either lazy or as thick as pig shit when it comes to putting together a healthy packed lunch. Pilots where schools have had free school dinners for all children have improved behaviour and attainment dramatically.

No one is banning packed lunches, but feckless parents will take the lazy option and use school dinners. It takes work to make a decent packed lunch.

While the policy is a nice idea, as many, many, many, other posters have said, it hasn't been thought out. There needs to be a good standard of school dinners across the country before something like this could be implemented, so we don't have stories of one school having amazing school dinners, and other schools where children are served stodge that's had any nutritional value boiled out of it.

However - higher uptake of hot school dinners isn't a bad thing for the children that really could do with a proper meal during their school day. The ones whose parents don't qualify for FSMs, but don't make sure they give them a proper breakfast, or a decent packed lunch, or a decent dinner at teatime. Or the children who don't have the social experience of sitting down to eat a meal together - something that isn't restricted to people in poor income brackets.

Bonsoir Wed 18-Sep-13 14:23:39

NorthPolo - I took a look at some menus on your link.

shock shock shock

I would be seriously concerned if I thought the government was going to force my DC to eat this type of crap every day.

NorthPolo Wed 18-Sep-13 14:38:17

Thanks Bonsoir, that's what my face looked like too shock I've had a look at the menu for the area where my friend's little boy goes to school as he likes the dinners and they're totally different. Much more balanced and well thought out e.g. Meat lasagne and veggie lasagne on the same day rather than the veggie option being pizza.

Dd1 is a good eater but will choose what others choose rather than the healthiest option and if the pudding is dumped on the same plate as the main then there's no hope for anything else being eaten.

indahouse Wed 18-Sep-13 14:39:07

I think it's an amazing idea. In my country most children eat school dinners (not free but cheap an prepaid each month). There are no options to choose from, everyone gets the same. We don't even have a word for 'picky eater' and I have never seen anyone older than 3 refusing to eat their veggies.

If dinners become free for all there will soon be huge push from middle-class parents to improve the quality. Everyone will benefit.

NewBlueShoesToo Wed 18-Sep-13 14:40:11

The school where packed lunches were sold was a struggling school in an inner city. It was a new head who turned it round and part of that was providing excellent food. He shopped around for a good local caterer who provided enough choice to cover children with allergies and religious food requirements. The more children who had the lunches the more efficiently it could be run. Meat was sourced from local butchers and parents were frequently invited in to see lunch in progress and to feed back their views.

The tricky thing is that for so many years school lunches became of poorer standard and packed lunches took over. It is a huge undertaking to try and change that and I'm not sure that it is politicians' job to do so.

Viognier Wed 18-Sep-13 14:44:59

I'm rather pissed off because this is obviously a pre-election promise. The UK is absolutely broke (have you look at the debt clock recently?) We have NO money. Why would we spend any money we DON'T have on this?

passedgo Wed 18-Sep-13 14:48:17

I wish they would sort out secondary school meals. My children often come home having had almost no lunch because the queues are so long and the restauant isn't big enough for 1400 children. Not surprising really, that's 140 tables of ten, even serving ten children per minute would take 2.5 hours. Even if they had shift lunches that worked they would still have to serve and have space for 15 children per minute and that's not including eating time.

As primary schools get larger this will become the main problem of having everyone eating school dinners.

ButThereAgain Wed 18-Sep-13 14:53:04

Same here passedgo. For my secondary-school son it is a choice between eating something or getting outside for a quick game of football. The queues are large and the lunchbreak is stupidly short so there is no time to do both. I don't think young adults should be doing without food to have time for activity -- or doing without activity to have time for food. He comes home ravenous.

BornToFolk Wed 18-Sep-13 14:53:21

I've looked at a few menus posted on this thread and I'm not impressed. They seem to be designed to be appealing to the maximum amount of children, which is understandable but the food ends up being bland, boring and carb-based - lots of pizza, pasta etc.

There's no opportunity to try something new.

MagratGarlik Wed 18-Sep-13 15:00:26

"He shopped around for a good local caterer who provided enough choice to cover children with allergies"

What all allergies?

As anyone who has tried cooking balanced meals for children with multiple allergies will testify, it's no mean feat.

Stock cubes? Better check those for added milk, celery and pea proteins
Ham? Frequently has added milk
Dairy substitutes? OK, but please none with soya or pea protein (they are available, but they cost ££££)
Lasagne? Nope, not without gluten free lasagne (again, ££££) and dairy-free, soya free sauce (£££)
Shepherds pie? OK, but make sure the mash is made with dairy free, soya free milk
Curry? Yes, doable, but please no peas, beans or lentils and if you are making a creamy one, use a dairy free, soya free, gluten free substitute
Pies? Can you make sure the crust is gluten free and dairy free? Again, no peas in it, please.
Sausages? Have they checked the rusk used to make them were gluten free and dairy free

You can't just leave out the bits they can't eat, you need to replace them with nutritionally equivalent things, which usually cost and everything (and I mean everything) used for cooking needs to be checked for allergens. It's just not feasible in a school of maybe 200+ children, never mind the cost. So, these children will have meals provided by parents whilst children without health issues can eat for free?

I'd rather my taxes were spent on something else tbh, new books for instance, or lowering the tax rates so the money I earn goes further.

Kendodd Wed 18-Sep-13 15:00:29

Just out of interest, does this include children at private schools?

93pjb Wed 18-Sep-13 15:13:17

We live in Southwark and there has been a gradual roll out of free school meals to all primary school pupils over the last 2 years, I think this year is the first that all years have had it, initially it was just reception, then up to year 4 last year. It's obviously taken quite a bit of adjustment for the schools so phasing it in gradually seems to have been pretty sensible.

It seems to be working pretty well here - the lunch service takes place over a long time to fit everyone in but very few children now have packed lunches so I think most kids (and parents) are happy with the quality of the meals. Yes there is pudding every day but it tends to be jelly or yoghurt, sometimes sponge and custard. Other than fishfingers on a friday, the processed food content is fairly low.

This is a very mixed area with huge differences income levels between families so while there are kids in my daughter's class who from families that are really struggling, there are others who live in million-pound houses. I think the free meals help a lot with social cohesion because everyone is having the same.

Surely it's a good thing for every child if the whole class has had a decent meal? And it's a lot better to do it this way than to introduce the lunchbox police... And if every child is having school dinners, more parents are likely to demand change if there are quality problems rather than just swapping to packed lunches.

passedgo Wed 18-Sep-13 15:14:04

Thereagain this is probably why in most of Europe they go to school until 1pm then have lunch at home. Breakfast at 7, a snack at school during break, lunch at home.

Realistically to cater for 1200 children within an hour and assure each child half an hour to eat lunch, you'd need to get through 20 children per minute. If each child took 3 minutes to choose and serve their meal they would need 60 counters.

Even if they do get through them you'd need a small aeroplane hangar to seat them all.

They really ought to tell parents the truth. "Your child walks around school at lunch time and may occasionally find somewhere to eat a sandwich. Or your child will stand in a queue for 45 minutes and may get a warm/cold meal at the end which they will then have to eat very quickly."

matana Wed 18-Sep-13 15:18:31

I can only go by my situation and with DS starting school in 2015 i will certainly appreciate it. At the moment he eats pretty much anything, so providing i am reassured by the menu and the ingredients i will be more than happy for him to have school meals. And by meals i don't mean chicken nuggets or turkey twizzlers, smiley face processed potatoes or pizza. I would expect fruit and veg on the menu and if other children choose not to eat it then so be it.

And I still won't be voting for them, especially as i anticipate some nasty 'surprises' in the autumn budget in order to offset this initiative. Most likely scrapping child benefit altogether or something equally hairbrained.

aintnothinbutagstring Wed 18-Sep-13 15:21:54

Its great for parents that are struggling with money but not eligible for FSM, which is a good proportion of parents. Our school dinners are 'ok' but fish fingers, chicken nuggets and chips do feature each week, as do 'homemade' (questionable!) muffins and cookies. Vegetarian options are mainly processed equivalents, whereas you could do really interesting veggie lunchboxes. They use lots of words to trick you into thinking the menu is something wholesome, 'crispy chips', 'italian spaghetti' (as opposed to what?), 'strawberry delight' (you mean angel delight, the processed powder dessert?).

My ds has allergies so I wouldn't feel comfortable with him being at the mercy of the school cook, even if they claimed to cater for allergies.

It'd be nice to see a free breakfast club as it would make mornings much quicker and less stressful! And it'd be easier to cater for allergy prone dc (soya/goats milk, dairy free spread, gluten free cereal and toast).

matana Wed 18-Sep-13 15:24:20

Mmmmm..... strawberry Angel Delight [rushes off to the shop to buy a pint of milk and a packet of, ahem, 'strawberry delight']

aintnothinbutagstring Wed 18-Sep-13 15:27:47

Ha matana, everything is ok in moderation!

And the great thing about lunchboxes is lack of choice! If faced with a 'homemade' cookie/muffin or the cut fresh fruit/yoghurt available with school dinners, its a no brainer. Whereas today she has a sandwich and an apple and pear, yesterday she ate both pieces of fruit purely down to lack of choice and hunger!

fromparistoberlin Wed 18-Sep-13 15:41:04

I think its a silly idea, save the money for the children that really need it

I can afford 12 per week, so why give it for free and use money???

madhairday Wed 18-Sep-13 15:48:52

A few people have mentioned the Pupil Premium thing, and I must admit I wonder about this too. Is it a stealth way of getting rid of it? If so schools in deprived areas will be even more worse off and standards will slip.

Daft idea. I think the threshold for FSM should go up to include those on lower middle incomes, but for all? School meals round our area are full of stodge and cards - cake and custard, pizza, white bread etc etc.

I like the idea of every child having a healthy meal every day. But in reality this will simply not be the case.

madhairday Wed 18-Sep-13 15:50:04


though some of the stuff they serve could just as well be made of cardboard

MagratGarlik Wed 18-Sep-13 15:56:35

Isn't it ironic too that they get rid of child benefit for 'higher' earners, but are now proposing to give everyone the right to free school meals regardless of income? (because the entire population is clearly to stupid to feed their children properly)

bigbuttons Wed 18-Sep-13 15:58:36

Oh good, so this will start just as my youngest( of 6) will become a junior, bloody fantastic.
And where is the money coming from?

manitz Wed 18-Sep-13 16:04:57

I am really annoyed. we are borderline for losing cb, depending on year. I now have to waste my time nagging dh to fill in a tax return so they can take 10 quid off us, then they give us school meals which is a completely non meanstested benefit. Why are they doing this and how can they account for the extra admin costs of means testing cb plus the cost of introducing fsm? I hated the principle of getting rid of cb but understand money must be saved, I didn't realise it was so they could introduce such a pointless (although beneficial to me) policy just for a few votes.

grants1000 Wed 18-Sep-13 16:08:10

3 DC's, youngest in y2, y3 next year, darn it!

Talkinpeace Wed 18-Sep-13 16:11:59


Tortington Wed 18-Sep-13 16:14:12

not sure why public sector workers have to put up with job losses and pay freezes for fucking years whilst we give free school dinners to the children of the rich

i am seriously wondering

doublemuvver Wed 18-Sep-13 16:17:12

In two minds. I like having an element of control over what my twins eat and they do enjoy their packed lunch. Plus it costs a lot less than £80 a month. So, if they were free then why not? Would depend on menu though as they have halal diet, though this shouldn't be a problem in their school. Carb heavy woud just mean a lot more exercise so not a bad thing either. Would not make me vote for them though.

Owllady Wed 18-Sep-13 16:18:00

We are borderline too manitz and I just gave it up. I would rather have that back thanks, considering we are a single income household (we have a severely disabled child)

allchatnicknamesgone Wed 18-Sep-13 16:18:26

I would rather they would spend the money on more one to one teachers and what about the Juniors. Why should parents with infants benefit, but not those with juniors.

Sorry, but I do believe only low income families should be allowed school dinners. I also think the quality of the school dinners will suffer if they are paid for by the government because they will continuously apply pressure to drive the costs down.

I suspect this is a reaction to poor Daniel's passing and trying to win votes for next election.

Owllady Wed 18-Sep-13 16:19:37

plus I only have one young child... and he goes to lower school, not infants

frogwatcher42 Wed 18-Sep-13 16:19:43

I am getting more and more wound up by this.

I have found out today that our local GP surgery is now unable to do (large raised) mole removal - even though it is on a child, bleeds regularly, catches in a zip etc because the doctors (apparently) are now not paid to do so due to cuts in NHS. She (the doc) said we can go private and it will "only" cost about £250!

But we as a country can afford to pay for FSMs for the rich and famous (as long as they attend state school).


TheCrackFox Wed 18-Sep-13 16:21:59

I see it as a gimmick too.

We have been lectured, ever since the crash, that "there is no more money", hence, CB had to cut, tax credits lowered, a bedroom tax introduced and the imminent introduction of Universal Credit. Most of us have begrudgingly accepted these cuts because, financially, Britain is in the shit but low and behold, we have £600million so even rich people's children can get a free lunch.

What a crock of shit.

Talkinpeace Wed 18-Sep-13 16:24:45

frogwatcher mole removal - demand a dermatologist consultation. GP is incorrect if its at risk of infection.

frogwatcher42 Wed 18-Sep-13 16:30:43

Who on the earth in the gov advisors, thinks that the public will be swayed for a vote on either a married person allowance of £3 week or FSM for all little ones.

As crackfox says, we have had it drummed into us for years that we are in dire straits as a country financially. It makes the current gov look very foolish if they suddenly find millions to once again give non means tested 'benefits'. Most people will surely think that this means they have been fooling us about the need for the cuts to NHS, benefits, etc.

I only found out today that whilst kids HAVE to stay on at school (by law brought in by Cameron I think) (assuming no apprenticeship) for an extra two/three years, they do not get free bus travel like they do for high school. In our rural area this means that whilst the kids have a legal duty to attend the school or sixth form, both are 10 - 20 miles away. But parents HAVE to pay bus fares regardless of income. I think this is between £300 and £400 a year.

But thats ok because you can get a FSM if you have a young child regardless of income.

Breathe Breathe.

Owllady Wed 18-Sep-13 16:30:45

Oh god I get that all the time frogwatcher - though not regarding moles. I get 'we encourage you to use your DLA to pay for x/y/z'
My daughters DLA barely covers bedding and continence products (and yes, NHS do provide 'some' continence products but they do not supply enough and the ones they supply are rubbish, leak and cause more problems, so i don't use them hmm oh wasn't that one of Dave's voting policies as well? i wonder whether he knows

Melfish Wed 18-Sep-13 16:31:04

I wasted £12 a week for 3 weeks trying to get DD to eat the school dinners. From reports she either ate plain pasta or a jacket potato or refused to eat. Now the govt are going to waste £12 a wk on my behalf. It's nice to see the Lib Dems consider this their most important priority: how about addressing the welfare reforms and the now crappy T&cs and pensions for public sector workers? It would have been better to raise the FSM threshold.

frogwatcher42 Wed 18-Sep-13 16:33:17

Talkin - apparently she considers that it is not an infection risk even though she has been told it bleeds regularly.

A surgery round here is bringing a charge in for 'private small surgery' at the GP practice, which apparently will be around the £150 mark for mole removal.

I expect our GP will do the same soon so will go back then - at least it is £100 cheaper than the private clinic.

Owllady Wed 18-Sep-13 16:35:20

frogwatcher, it's £40 a month here per child for travel (also rural area) we get it free though as we have no footpaths on our road...but I presume we will have to pay when over the age of X (16?)

frogwatcher42 Wed 18-Sep-13 16:43:34

I just looked on local authority site and it is a lot of money starting after the GCSE year (when they used to beable to leave).

It is so unfair (doesnt actually affect me but ...). Surely if there is money to spare then if you make a law that kids have to extend their school life and don't have an option to leave and stay at home, then you should continue to provide free transport as they get leading up to that age due to the requirement to go to school. I am intrigued as to what happens if the parent refuses to pay so child doesn't go to school aged 16-18?.

You don't give every married couple (why???) £3 or every young child FSM regardless of income.

manitz Wed 18-Sep-13 16:46:30

i agree. it's a total gimmick, those who need school dinners are likely to be covered by the current system. OK some people who have a reasonable income and are not currently entitled to fsm may give their kids crisps but my daughter often chooses sandwiches when i have given her a school meal instead of packed. school dinners at all my kids schools have not been a particularly healthy choice.

owllady, i can't give cb up just because then they will have won, I resented us losing it - although it turns out we dont lose a lot. I think it was a great thing that differentiated between a person without kids on a similar income and one with extra costs (I accept that it's my choice to have kids) and I felt it was for women so that those without fair home situations had some income for them and kids. We are also now single income so was also annoyed at teh discrepancy with double/single income households. I am annoyed that we are considered together for child benefit (ie i lose cb because of his income) but singly for pension payments (ie his are taken off gross salary but mine are not) so many things are unfair about how they brought the system in. However we are not currently on the breadline and i realise that many people have more to worry or complain about in their lives so I shut up and put up. But it still irked me

Now I will be able to make one less packed lunch in the morning which means that the unit cost of my packed lunches goes up, I do not see any particular benefit for my household AND public funds will pay for it. The main reason appears to be so that someone gets a good headline which they hope will translate to votes. woopdedoo

allmycats Wed 18-Sep-13 17:06:39

I am happy for my taxes to go towards providing FSM for those children
who have parents on low incomes. I am NOT happy to be paying for FSM for all of the little blighters!!

However, there are so many people on this site saying their little darling
will only eat x,y, and z - well they need to start being firmer and only offer their kids balanced meals - if there is no medical reason why they can't eat other foods then some one needs to sort this out if the parents
can't (won't).

Retropear Wed 18-Sep-13 17:07:11

Just shows what a slimy little shit Clegg is.

Lie to us over tuition fees,take away CB whilst patronisingly telling us we're wealthy so can afford to give it uphmm(I don't earn £600k a year like his wife)then give rich people help with childcare and free school meals whilst rubber stamping married tax allowance something he is against to get his way.

He's got the morals of an alley cat.

frogwatcher42 Wed 18-Sep-13 17:09:45

allmycats - but FSM won't sort the problem as I have seen first hand that the kids only eat what they like on the plate anyway. They find ways of getting rid of the rest - either somebody else eats it or they mash it up so it looks like they attempted it.

Certainly our school does not have enough staff in the canteen to sort this out - they have one walking around with gravy, custard etc and one scraping the plates. One other if you are lucky. They certainly cannot keep an eye on all the little ones - they use the bigger kids as table leaders and they are not going to enforce the 'eat your carrots' rule!!

Retropear Wed 18-Sep-13 17:11:27

Not happy with libraries being closed and a whole host of other cuts so he and Miriam(along with Dave and George) can have free school meals.

frogwatcher42 Wed 18-Sep-13 17:11:41

Retropear - you are right. I was a broad supporter of the libcons at first.

This is the nail in their coffin as far as my vote is concerned. And I would potentially benefit a little from at least one of their proposals!!

DH suggested that everytime whose dc gave diagnosed dietary requirements (like our DD) get supermarket vouchers to make up for the fsm they won't get...

Which made me wonder what happens with those dc who already get fsm but can't eat them due to allergies?

I'm interested in the pupil premium question, would absolutely need to know the answer to that.

If any changes were made to fsm as they currently are I would like them to be made available to more families - no only eligible if you get x benefits + y malarky just available to everyone with an income of less than whatever amount.

allmy that's a very ignorant post!!!

I don't call a child who just wants some seasoned food and some vegetables with a bit of bite fussy. I call them normal.

ketchupontoast Wed 18-Sep-13 18:06:02

I don't agree with this. Yes I don't mind my taxes going to those less fortunate and feeing children who need a hearty meal a day because they live in low income families. I object to my taxes paying to feed other people's children when they are more than able to.

ouryve Wed 18-Sep-13 18:17:15

allmycats I don't think that anyone has suggested a non-medical reason why their kids' diets are limited.

ouryve Wed 18-Sep-13 18:22:41

"I don't call a child who just wants some seasoned food and some vegetables with a bit of bite fussy. I call them normal."

Quite. DS1 had school dinners for a while, when they ran the pilot, here. He went off so many different foods, including a lot of the vegetables he'd loved since he was a baby, during that time, that we're still working hard on re-expanding his diet, years later.

My dd would beg for a stir fry at the weekends, desperate for some fresh crunchy veg.

MrsJamin Wed 18-Sep-13 18:34:33

I don't get how this is going to work practically- most schools won't be able to provide hot food for all the children. Most schools round here have been crammed full with pupils due to shortage of places, so there is simply not the room to make or provide room to eat hot meals. It's going to lead to tensions between schools and parents when they say they can't provide hot meals that have been promised to the children from the government.

Mandy21 Wed 18-Sep-13 18:59:25

I haven't read all the posts - I don't agree with FSMs for everyone, but just wanted to defend school meals.

At my DCs school (of approx. 400 children), around 95% I think are on school lunches which is full capacity. They have a waiting list for children wanting to get on the list for school dinners. If you decide to come off school lunches, you're unlikely to get back on for at least 1-2 school years. When Year 6 pupils leave, their places are offered to Reception, any left over go to people on the waiting list.

There were 57 out of 62 starters this year that signed up for school lunches. There are 2 girls in my DDs class who have packed lunch. Everyone else has school lunch.

Todays choice was salmon (fillet) or braised steak (always a choice of main course). Roast potatoes. Carrots. If they didn't want a cooked meal, they could have a ham sandwich or help themselves from the salad bar. Pudding was fresh fruit or a yoghurt.

It costs me £6 a day for 3 children, so £30 a week. I personally think its money well spent.

From some posts, not every school is as good as ours but please don't assume every school lunch is the same and its certainly not "slop" or lacking in nutrition from my experience.

ipadquietly Wed 18-Sep-13 19:12:23

We are wondering who is going to fund £50000+ for refurbishment of teaching space to make a kitchen; who is going to pay for an industrial dish washer (plus extra water usage) and crockery and cutlery for 180 children? We have a deficit budget FFS!

In our LA, hot school meals were stopped by the Thatcher government. Kitchens were knocked out and have been used as teaching areas for years and years. We have no facilities for cooking or even hot food collection/storage/disposal.

We are by no means the only primary school in the area lacking these facilities, and I think there are other schools in other counties in our situation. Just getting our schools ready to accept hot meals would add hundreds of thousands of pounds to the bill!


maillotjaune Wed 18-Sep-13 19:16:31

I don't want my youngest to have FSM. His older brothers tried them, one of them (a fussy child with no medical reason for avoiding many foods, but in a family where the other 4 people eat just about anything so not sure why my parenting skills only went awry on him hmm) managing to eat no more than a mouthful every day for the week we tried.

More to the point, the infant school already has to do 2 sittings for the children that already have school meals. If everyone had them they would need to run 3-4 sittings which would just be a pain to manage. They also get meals from another local school that still has a big kitchen, but if they had to feed all their pupils then they wouldn't be able to sell the service to several other schools...

Jellykat Wed 18-Sep-13 19:23:23

I don't agree with FSM for all infant pupils either.

If you are on a low income you already receive FSM so no change there. All it will do will be give freebie meals to those that can afford to pay for them.

The £600 million could be spent in so many other ways, to help our failing education system.. that would benefit all IMO.

BaconAndAvocado Wed 18-Sep-13 19:33:26

I'm not sure about this one.

Our 2 DCs currently have school dinners for which we pay £80 a month. It's not a small amount but something we feel is important and worth paying for.

Like some of the other posters I think that the money should be spent elsewhere. Families earning less than £16k can get free school meals.

Minifingers Wed 18-Sep-13 19:37:38

Thumbs down from me.

If there is evidence that universal free school meals improved learning outcomes across the board then I'd be all for it, but they don't. They are only of value to children who have an inadequate diet at home. Really a big, big waste of money providing them free to higher income families.

maxybrown Wed 18-Sep-13 19:39:08

If I thought it would be beneficial to DS then I would pay for them now, not take them just because it's free.

He will qualify for a year of it but will not be having them.

He is currently waiting and ASD diagnosis. He has the same lunch day in day out. Strong cheddar on wholemeal bread, fresh orange juice or apple juice and some fruit. He eats it all, he panics at the mere hint of anything else going in there. He sees some food just for home - he is horrified petrified even at the thought of chocolate or crisps going into his lunchbox as they are to be eaten at home (this is all him btw not me!!)

I also can't abide the prison trays, everything lumped in together, so unappealing. It would certainly put me off eating, scraped plastic yak.

The schools I have worked in, food has not been great and most went in the bin. Year 6 children getting the same as reception children. I got a free school meal as a member of staff but mostly I was left feeling yakky and stodgy afterwards. It was tasteless too.

Things laced full of sweeteners to avoid the sugar.

Burnt food, veg boiled to no goodness etc.

Yes some schools may have nice food but MOST don't and I would like to see what's in the stuff too.

What happens when they reach juniors and it's no longer free? And how can they ban packed lunches when juniors won't be getting them provided for free?

Some schools are 3 form entry, how would they propose they all sat down together to eat with staff? 90 children per YEAR group?

TollgateDebs Wed 18-Sep-13 19:39:48

I've worked in schools for too many years and the assumption is that the food is up to scratch and, in far too many instances, it is not. Choice is poor, portions variable and verge on the small. What if the school does not have a kitchen, which many don't. I agree about the breakfast, dinner issue raised above too, which is where do you stop? I work in a secondary school where the menu is OK, but students don't have the money and given the range of physical types, also do not eat anywhere near enough to benefit them nutritionally. I'd be more concerned about the lack of PE and exercise for many. It is an easy 'good news item' for the Libs and yet again avoids the real issues facing families today.

HappyMummyOfOne Wed 18-Sep-13 19:48:16

Awful idea, the money could fund building work for schools or TA's. Let parents choose how to feed their children and fund that choice not taxpayers.

Some children will have a worse diet as many parents simply wont bother with a decent evening meal as they will rely on the school delivering.

Nobody has actually said who will fund this, what if its to come from the schools budget rather than extra cash? What will children lose out on?

feelthis Wed 18-Sep-13 20:13:28

Is this a done deal then? It's a total slap in the face for those who have lost their child benefit and also have DC year 4 or above - they've now been doubley shafted by this bunch of toss pots!

ihategeorgeosborne Wed 18-Sep-13 20:26:33

Happy, I believe it's being funded through central government, according to an article I read in the Independent. I've no idea how it's being funded though. I guess they will be raising taxes or cutting spending somewhere else. Apparently George Osborne will enlighten us at the Autumn spending review hmm

I agree feelthis, we have lost CB for 3 dc, so that's 2.5K just gone. We are a single income family just above the threshold. DC 3 will get this election bribe and we'll also get the married couples measly £150 a year. It doesn't come close to what we've lost in CB though angry

jenniferalisonphillipasue Wed 18-Sep-13 20:49:35

I am all for it.
Call me naive but if all children are having school lunches then theoretically the quality will increase as suppliers are guaranteed the business and can work more efficiently. It will also create jobs.
Just because a family has money it doesn't mean they provide their children with healthy food. On a school trip today I observed a boy with educated, wealthy parents who had a pepperami, Nutella sandwich, chocolate bar and a packet of crisps. High sugar, high salt and minimal nutrition.
What we eat does affect the way we behave and act. If by providing good nutrition you are able to prevent some behavioural issues then it is money well spent.

CharlotteCollinsismovingon Wed 18-Sep-13 21:05:17

Utterly crazy.

This year, our school is having meals shipped in for the first time, because local council funding cuts meant that the school kitchen had to close. sad We had to say goodbye to the wonderful cooks, who knew all the children and their dietary requirements, favourite foods and so on.

And now they're going to give us the shipped-in stuff for nothing?


fizzly Wed 18-Sep-13 21:18:31

Haven't read whole thread but from what I've read I'm a bit surprised at how much opposition there is on here. I totally get the view that there may be 'better' ways of spending money, but very few government funding decisions are a zero sum game. You don't spend money here, by taking it away from there. Sometimes you have to make a decision to invest here, and hope to reduce costs as a consequence somewhere else - and I can definitely see that spending more money on providing good (and I know that's not always the case) hot meals could lead to a) better concentration and therefore standards in the class room, and b) health benefits for the children involved. I realise that on MN every packed lunch is uber healthy and much better than the alternative school meal. However, I know from experience in real like that this is not the case in most instances and some of the packed lunches I have seen have been less than nutritious and the school meals here (despite very limited space and brought in meals) are pretty good - although not home-cooked standard of course.

I also think that 'universal benefits' can be a good thing - they give everyone a stake in the welfare state and reinforce a message that recipients of benefits aren't all 'scroungers'. We all pay into the system and at times of our life we all take out of the system. Our time in primary school is as reasonable point as any for us to being 'taking out' of the system, regardless of our parents wealth or lack of it. If you say that 'rich' families (over 16K?) shouldn't get FSM then it's not a big step to say that other 'rich' families (over 30K? Over 40K? Over 60K?) shouldn't get free education at all....

ipadquietly Wed 18-Sep-13 21:22:00

Those 'rich' families don't get free education frizzly. They hire tutors to bump up their children's grades.

fizzly Wed 18-Sep-13 21:24:11

grin True. But they still take up a space in our very very very oversubscribed local school.

Also it's quite a good alternative to child benefit (for higher earners) if you think about it - at least the money goes straight to the kids rather than being used for fags, booze, loose women or whatever it is we were spending it on before.

frumpet Wed 18-Sep-13 21:29:13

What you mean i am going to have to give up the booze and the fags !

LongStory Wed 18-Sep-13 21:46:25

I think it is a good policy which is based on proper evidence. As with every policy, there will be challenges to implement it. I had decided not to do school dinners for my youngest two (of five) due to the cost. But I am very pleased that they will have this option now.

foxy6 Wed 18-Sep-13 22:01:54

a good idea but wouldn't work for me as ds doesn't like school dinners he is very fussy with his food and goes through fazes . i dread to think what they think of us as parents by his lunch box he went today with bread and butter( didn't want anything in his sandwiches) a sausage roll and a yogurt.

LongStory Wed 18-Sep-13 22:14:08

but foxy don't you think when he sees most of the other children eating dinners he will gradually learn about food. Coz that's what school is about ... learning ... and food is such a hard and important part of that.

spoken as a mum of five. Paid for dinners for DS1 @ £2.75 a day for a year on ideological grounds before a lunch time assistant told me he was picking the tuna baguette option each day and only ate half of it. Grrrrr!!! But something sank in at some stage and now he is 13 and a bit of a fun foodie.

MeAndMySpoon Wed 18-Sep-13 22:34:50

I don't know where to start with this really. It seems a crass, ill thought-out attempt at vote-grabbing. Surely there are more effective ways of reaching the least well-nourished children? I really object to being told that we'll lose one universal benefit but gain another one. Where does the money come from? What about small companies who supply small rural schools like ours? They will have to massively upsize very quickly in order to cope with demand - that doesn't sound like a bad thing but might be impractical. And as loads of other posters have pointed out, most schools lost their kitchens decades ago and there's no room or money to replace them. hmm It's just so badly thought out.

DS1 has packed lunches most of the week and school meals twice a week, because those are the only two days they offer something the picky little beggar will eat. hmm At least I know how much he eats of his packed lunch - anything uneaten comes back again! And though our school meals aren't too bad (not made on premises, they come in from a local company that supplies other small schools) I think the meals I make him are just as nutritionally balanced. As for the benefits of hot meals - most of them are yakking at lunchtime so much it's gone cold before they eat up, anyway!

Leafmould Wed 18-Sep-13 22:38:53

Long story, I'm not sure the good research that the policy is based on is really informing the policy though. The pilot schools had free school meals for the whole school. The policy is only going to give free school meals to half the school. The whole school cultural change fsm was credited with in the pilot schools is not a given when only half the school get the fsm.

BlackeyedSusan Wed 18-Sep-13 22:47:18

the packed lunches I make are healthier than the school dinners provided. and balanced to their individual dietry needs. they get a wider range of fruit and vegetables. i would like the option to choose whether to send ds with packed lunches or not. it is vital that he gets the right amount of food to keep him even tempered during the afternoon.

however, I have also seen the contents of lunch boxes in the past.... so they are healthier for some.

LongStory Wed 18-Sep-13 22:59:13

Leafmould [great name!] I think they probably aim long term to roll it out to the whole of primary but this was a fiscal compromise to get things moving. I think the important thing is that children in peer groups learn the eating thing together.

fizzly Wed 18-Sep-13 23:01:51

There is no suggestion that you won't be able to choose to use packed lunches!

LongStory Wed 18-Sep-13 23:02:58

it's good to know that the women of England are making a competitive sport of nutritionally balanced packed lunches and proving that they're better than the dinners option. Yes I try to do this myself but there are only so many hours in the day, income to earn, other kids, a life to lead, issues to sort etc...

Snelldog Wed 18-Sep-13 23:04:47

Good idea. For some children this will be the only decent meal they get

Bumpstarter Wed 18-Sep-13 23:07:58

Any of you school dinner refusers going to donate me your free school meals?

LadyLapsang Wed 18-Sep-13 23:11:48

Good for familes that go just above the means test for FSM / income fluctuates below / above FSM threshold but apart from that I think it is an expensive pre-election bribe. Also means parents and children will get used to receiving lunch for no extra cost (I won't say free because most people are paying through their taxes) /hassle (no remembering to buy all the ingredients for packed lunch & make it) and when they hit year 3 the parents will have to pay, which they won't be used to, and / or the children may have to give up school lunch.

I am, however, very pleased about extending means tested FSMs to sixth formers from low income homes in all settings (sixth form colleges and FE as well as school sixth forms) - that should really help poor families & support social mobility.

MagratGarlik Wed 18-Sep-13 23:28:26

It does annoy me though that whilst I pay significantly more for my weekly shop than average to account for ds2's allergies (whilst ensuring meals are nutritionally balanced), the free school meals will be unmanageable for him and so I can subsidise the free school meals of others through my taxes, whilst still having to provide packed lunches for ds2 from my own purse.

Why not just increase child benefit? (Or even better, make that non-means tested again). Then we can decide how to spend the money ourselves..... Oh no, I forget, we are all too stupid to do that....

feelthis Wed 18-Sep-13 23:39:01

Well I guess one way they could pay for it is to raise revenue and make child benefit based on family income. I am still hugely aggrieved that my sister who with her husband earn tens of thousands more than our single earner sahm family does gets the full entitlement and we get nothing. It is hugely unfair.

feelthis Wed 18-Sep-13 23:47:08

And yes I will never forgive the Lib Dems and Torys for their continued attack on families. To me this is just another one as it excludes half the primary school population so some benefit and some don't and it is just sods law and hey ho well you still have to fund it in your taxes if you don't
Like cb it is all so arbitrary, ill thought through - fine if you are in the criteria but two fingers up to you if your not - so to a large number of families and voters alienating and totally counterproductive to what they wanted to achieve

feelthis Wed 18-Sep-13 23:47:11

And yes I will never forgive the Lib Dems and Torys for their continued attack on families. To me this is just another one as it excludes half the primary school population so some benefit and some don't and it is just sods law and hey ho well you still have to fund it in your taxes if you don't
Like cb it is all so arbitrary, ill thought through - fine if you are in the criteria but two fingers up to you if your not - so to a large number of families and voters alienating and totally counterproductive to what they wanted to achieve

MagratGarlik Wed 18-Sep-13 23:48:19

Absolutely. Household income would be fairer. Or, if they can afford non-means tested FSM, they can afford to go back to non-means tested cb too.

feelthis Wed 18-Sep-13 23:48:58

See im so pissed off I posted twice grin woops

Canthisonebeused Thu 19-Sep-13 00:11:34

I haven't read the whole thread but I think this is a knee jerk responce to what happened to Daniel Pelka. Sadly this is not the only answer to help children in such circumstances.

It seems odd to me that child benefit was removed and they are providing free meals to all infant school children. They don't suddenly stop being hungry at 7.

Personally I think all children should revive free meals in school.

BlackeyedSusan Thu 19-Sep-13 00:22:52

long story, the healthiest meals i provide for school are the quickest to prepare....I scoop bit of tea out of the pan the night before. grin i cook with wholemeal pasta, which beats their white pasta option and there is a few different veg thrown in. (fresh and or frozen) which gives more variety than the 3 or so provided in school

oh and given there are two deep fried options a week and processed meat a couple of times a week it is not that difficult to get a healthier packed lunch! whack in couple of slices of cucumber and couple of tomatoes and you have their equivalent of salad. add bit of onion, spring onion, sugar snap peas, carrot, beetroot, pepper according to what you child eats, and again you beat the school in variety. (not that dd eats that) school lunches used to 2 slices of apple and 2 of orange as the fruit option. not difficult to beat that then either.

it takes no more effort to use wholemeal bread/wraps than white. or wash an apple or pear instead of putting in a pack of crisps.

the point is that the nutritional standard of the least healthy options on the menu (the ones ds would choose) are not that high, even if higher than a pack of crisps, a fruit shoot, sausage roll and chocolate bar.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 08:39:53

Feelthis sooooo agree with you.

You're exactly the same as us.

Better of sister gets higher wages,CB,double TA threshold,her 1 day a week nanny paid for,free school dinners- we get nothing on a lower income.

She's a lovely sister who thinks it as unfair as me but it still hacks me off.

If you moan the alright Jacks say some you win,some you lose.Well I'm fed up with losing thanks.

Tell you what it makes you listen to the other people voicing unfairness in other ways though.I have a whole new opinion on bedroom tax now.I had no idea previously.

dreamingofsun Thu 19-Sep-13 09:16:59

for the good of the country i didn't mind giving up my child benefit. BUT i do object if the money is going to be people should provide their own children's food.

The priority at school should be to teach our children and enable them to pass exams so they are prepared for the world of work. There is still a lot of work needed to fix this without looking at irrelevant gimicks. But this is the sort of thing i would expect from the Lib Dems. when i read about it in the paper i had to check it wasn't April 1.

Galaxymum Thu 19-Sep-13 09:33:56

So agree with you dreamingofsun. It feels like sucha gimmick to me. So the same people who have given up their child benefit can now receive free school meals for their children? It doesn't make sense to me at all!

The families who receive free school meals at the moment do so due to financial issues. I think it would be far better to raise the level of income (and not just being on benefits) to low income earning families. It would be far better distributed.

I volunteer at my DD's school and see the fruit left after the little ones can't possibly eat all that is sent. It's then shared out or would be wasted. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

My DD loved her milk and her fruit but I remember throwing away my free milk every day because I couldn't stand the taste.

I do agree with dreamingofsun that schools are about education and preparing children for the world of work and society. I would have been far happier with the money spent on more resources or extra classroom assistants.

Also, how will they organise the educational finances if everyone in the infants is on free school meals? How will they determine which schools will require more resources for children not yet identified or diagnosed with SEN? It took 2 years for my DD to receive her full statement and at 7 she was finally diagnosed after 2 and a half years since referral. If the extra resources went on statements it could be years before resources appear.

More likely to save money for the Government!

lorisparkle Thu 19-Sep-13 09:59:27

Personally I am really happy with the idea as it will save us a fortune, however I have huge concerns..

How they going to ensure quality and consistency with 'mass catering' across such a huge area.
Many schools don't have kitchens anymore and one school near us tried getting it brought in but found it unmanageable (poor excuse if you ask me though)
As others have said why introduce this non-means tested benefit when they have taken away Child Benefit. I would rather they expanded the people who can get free school meals based on income
My DS used to eat with his fork in his left hand until he went to school and now has to be nagged not to shovel his food using his right hand like his peers do at school.
How are they going to staff these 'idyllic' social lunch times ensuring good manners when budgets are already tight.
How are they going to decided who gets 'pupil premium' when all infants are getting free school meals.

If schools and catering companies are given the adequate funding and monitoring to ensure high quality, good choices, good supervision, etc then this is a great idea but I personally think it is a gimmick that is meant to be a 'vote winner' but as with so many policies they have just taken CP with one hand and given free school meals with the other.

woodsies1975 Thu 19-Sep-13 10:23:43

As the parent of a Reception child, I was invited into school on Monday to have a hot lunch with my son to sample the "fantastic food" offered by the local company who deliver hot meals to over 100 schools in the area. Well, if the standard of that food was anything to go by, then my son will be going very hungry if all he is to have is a hot meal, rather than a packed lunch (I am sure I read that packed lunches would not be banned but other articles seem to imply they will). The portion size was tiny, same portion dished up to all ages (my daughter is in Yr 3 so not an infant but would never survive the afternoon on the tiny amount dished up). The vegetables were virtually raw - cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and huge cubes of swede. I like my veg with a bit of crunch, but it was a joke. The cabbage was hard white cabbage and all the veiny bits I would normally compost. And swede is not a vegetable to serve half cooked. Not a single child ate their vegetables. During the main course we were served with half slices of bread, so the kids all filled up on that, which defeats the point of a healthy and filling hot lunch. Pudding was undercooked banana and chocolate bread with chocolate custard and I felt sick all afternoon after eating it. I am Chair of Govs at the school and have heard grumblings from parents for a while about the quality of the meals (under cooked baked potatoes were delivered a while ago, and the only food available to offer the kids was a load of cereal from the breakfast club store, and pasta sauce was once delivered, but no pasta so the staff went to the village shop to buy bread and cheese). My heart sank when I read that free meals were to be provided to all infants, as my son will be very hungry. The companies who provide hot school meals will be rubbing their hands all the way to the bank while still providing crap food. We have a meeting with the company next week to kick some serious butt.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 10:31:01

Sounds like our school- which has some reward for it's food.hmm

They don't make kids choose veg,let alone eat it and my dc filled up on bread.The salad option goes untouched and in the bin(now at tax payers expense I guess) along with the bins groaning with free fruit.

I put the veg my kids like in their packed lunch which I make them eat on their return home if it hasn't been finished.

Another one who's dd filled up on bread.

I can't begin to tell you how ill she started getting after being on school meals. Her asthma flared up her eczema flared up, she was constantly bloated from all the carbs and she looked like a heroine addict all white with grey eyes. Needless to say I stopped paying and now my dd actually looks healthy.

MrsDibble Thu 19-Sep-13 10:50:18

I think it's great.

My child has just started school and the school lunches look really good and healthy. It's a shame if some schools don't have the same standards as they really should. Perhaps government should address this before bringing in the free meals. I do sometimes worry that the companies are making too much profit out of the meals.

Anything that encourages more parents to opt for school lunches rather than a packed lunch is a good move. It causes a real division when some children are eating a packed lunch rather than the school lunch and then you have children coming home saying they don't want school lunches to be like their friends.

There's a private school nearby that DD's friend for nursery goes to where school lunches are obligatory and I'd be all for that.

I agree it would be great if they extended it to the juniors though. Must be annoying if your children will just miss out.

I am not a strict parent generally but I really don't hold with fussy eating - children have got to be encouraged to eat everything and the best way to do that is to keep putting it in front of them. If your child is fussy, then you might find they eat things at school when their friends are having it that they wouldn't at home.

A cooked lunch that contains all the necessary food groups is bound to be better than anything one could come up with for a lunch box, and then you know they've had a hot meal at least once in the day, taking the pressure off dinner times when they might be tired.

The only good reason I've heard for not opting for school lunches is that they are expensive (£2.15 at DD's school, which I admit must be a lot for some) so I thing this is really positive.

Bluebell99 Thu 19-Sep-13 10:53:21

As my children are no longer in primary school, we are not going to benefit from this at all. I would much rather have my child benefit back. My children have always preferred packed lunches anyway. I think there are much better things to spend our taxes on.

tedmundo Thu 19-Sep-13 10:54:24

Something doesn't add up here though does it?

The idea that it would not be cost efficient to means test the FSM does not really stack up when you see that they have a means tested child Benefit policy now in place. Why not simply use the same strategy for FSM? If you get CB then you get FSM.

I can afford to pay and am very, very happy to do so if I thought those who struggled would be getting the help they needed.

Also, where has this idea come from that a packed lunch is unhealthy and somehow the temperature of a meal influences how good it is for you?!

The school dinners at the DSs school are vile. Only 1 choice and the DSs are not terribly fussy but there are some things they don't enjoy. If they take a packed lunch on the days when I know they simply won't eat the meal does that mean the food is wasted? I don't like that idea.

On a random note, I am NOT liking the new IOS on my ipad.

choceyes Thu 19-Sep-13 10:56:56

That's my mind made up now Wheresmycaffeinedrip. Our school is so cagey about their school dinners, their provenance, whether it's made on site or not, nobody seems to know. After asking them for ages for a menu, finally after 2 weeks they produced one. Cakes after every meal. Bread on the side etc etc. DS must be in food heaven as he is a carb addict. But he will eat nutritous food if he is not given the option of refined carbs. He likes wholemeal pasta with chicken and peas, wholemeal pitta with hummous/cheese etc, wholemeal quesadillas with red peppers and cheese etc. But not alongside cake and bread. he loves fruit at home, but alongside cake he would go for the cake!
I'm going to try out packed lunches and see how it goes.

tedmundo Thu 19-Sep-13 11:01:35

choceyes .. Everything you list in your post is without exception healthier than the Eden Food menu I have in front of me here. Sausages in gravy with mash today. With cabbage. Followed by Eve's pudding and custard.

woodsies1975 Thu 19-Sep-13 11:01:58

tedmundo I have left the iPad installing IOS7 at home, please don't say that!!

I don't really hold with fussy eating either, but the midday supervisors at school don't have the time to make sure all the children eat up, and I know from observing mealtimes that most of the children at our school aren't encouraged to eat their veg or whatever if they see a friend doing it. I am another one who can't see why the temp of a meal makes any difference - I make a healthy packed lunch with the occasional treat for my daughter and will do so for my son as well from next week when he's there all day. I know some lunch boxes are full of cr*p but my kids' aren't. And the meals cost £2.45. My DH and I are at home for lunch every day as we work nearby, so I always have things in for making lunch.

MrsDibble a cooked lunch containing all the food groups is only any good if the children eat it. Just because they are children, doesn't mean they deserve to be served with slop and undercooked food.

Our schools catering company proudly states on the web site. "No salt is added during or after the cooking process"

Seriously , think, how tasty would that actually be? Pasta? Potato? Yuck

Snelldog Thu 19-Sep-13 11:06:39

I think we need to see the wider picture with this. Generally the benefit in this is for those children whose parents/carers are not so concerned about it as to post on mumsnet. I know from speaking to a friend who is an infants teacher in a deprived area that some children come to school hungry without a packed lunch. I agree that it would be better if it was for longer than to 7 - but look outside we have a downturn - surely this is better than nothing?

MrsDibble Thu 19-Sep-13 11:06:40

I have said that I agree the government should ensure school food is up to scratch.

choceyes Thu 19-Sep-13 11:09:01

Last week the menu consisted of fish fingers (home made no problem, but I believe these were the frozen variety with little actual fish in them), sausages, mince of some description, potato wedges, chips, beans etc etc. All of that sounds high in salt and processed. And bread alongside all of that, followed by cake...humph!
Also when DS has cake everyday after lunch, I feel like I can't give him anymore sugary food at home. I take him to a cafe after school on a friday as a treat for some nice cake, but I feel a tiny bit guilty thinking maybe it's too much sugar for him in one day when he's already had cake at lunch time! I'm really not a food nazi/health freak, but sugary stuff should be an occassional thing should it not, rather than daily? How do schools get away with it, with their "healthy meals" policy?

MagratGarlik Thu 19-Sep-13 11:32:02

I don't hold with fussy eating either, but if I would try to give ds2 anything with dairy, peas, beans (of any type), lentils, nuts all I'd end up with is another epipen used, a trip to the hospital and a child who sees food as something that is dangerous and will hurt him.

I don't trust mass catering to be able to cope with special medical needs. He gets a healthy packed lunch, which he eats with his friends, some of whom also have packed lunches, so he doesn't feel isolated about his allergies yet again and we eat a cooked from scratch meal each evening together as a family.

He, and others like him do not need to have it pointed out any further that they will not enjoy the same relationship with food that others take for granted.

If school meals became compulsory (which smacks of socialist over-control of the 'uneducated' masses), I would have no option but to withdraw him from school for lunchtime, which would be a major hassle as I work FT and the school is > 3 miles away.

sailingdom Thu 19-Sep-13 11:34:05

I'll probably get told off for this but... When I enrolled my child for Reception, amongst the many forms was one for claiming Free School meals. When I told them that was earning too much to claim and was not on benefits I was told that it didn't matter, that I didn't need to fill in the form and he would get free school meals anyway!???

Is this unusual or pretty common? This was in January this year 2013

WasabiPea Thu 19-Sep-13 11:34:13

My son has packed lunches as he's a bit fussy and I know that he would just eat bread and potatoes if he had school dinners (and probably leave out the potatoes). I also can't believe that they serve up a stodgy sweet pudding EVERY day! I know they offer fruit and yogurt as well but I can't think of many children who would choose an apple over a chocolate muffin! Also, is there still a stigma over free school meals?? In my day it was really clear who was on free school meals but now it seems that dinners are all pre-paid so it wouldn't be obvious who was eating free school meals...? Happy to be corrected though...
I also agree that Nick is trying to gain popularity... wonder what else he'll come up with!

MickeyMixer Thu 19-Sep-13 12:12:33

The full plan they are proposing is here:
Personally I wouldn't trust the government to feed my children anymore than I trust them on any other issue!

MickeyMixer Thu 19-Sep-13 12:12:50
ReallyTired Thu 19-Sep-13 12:15:57

The cost of giving free school dinners to 30 children is roughly the cost of employing a TA. It would be interesting to have an experiment where one infant class all have an extra TA and another class has free school dinners and to see which group of children make the most progress.

Prehaps the simplest solution would be to have free school dinners for every child in schools where more than 30% of children qualify for fsm. The financial cost would be ofset by the fact that admin staff would not have to spend hours on the phone chasing non payers.

There is often a high number of working poor children in areas where there is also lots of fsm children. Rich parents usually avoid schools with lots of working class kids like the plague. The number of rich kids who attend working class schools is insignificant. It is well worth giving the odd rich kid a free school meal if it dramatically increases up take of free school meals when there is no stigma.

alreadytaken Thu 19-Sep-13 12:16:32

an election bribe, obviously.

We obviously wont be affected but it might encourage more children to try different foods and reduce food fads. It will also reduce the stigma of being on free school meals and make it easier for schools to budget for meals. Also government policies have hit families hard and this is a slight benefit.

But I'm not convinced it will be practical when so many schools closed kitchens. It will also mean those with allergies are singled out. I think I would have preferred a greater subsidy for primary school meals so that the cost could be reduced for all primary school children.

ouryve Thu 19-Sep-13 12:19:09

It depends where you live, Sailingdom There's a couple of LAs that are providing free meals, currently.

And this thread is in a week when I'm really struggling to persuade DS1 to eat any food at all at school. He asked for just a sandwich, yesterday, and it came home, untouched. sad

Although a wonderful idea in principle the logistics of it far outway the positives, not to mention the fact this is probably an empty promise as was the immigration idea Nick Clegg 'promised' to set uphmm

A: Tax payers, again will lose out as any money they save will be plowed back in via higher taxes.

B: A lot of schools don't have the facilities for cooking.

C: If it goes ahead, will it be compulsory? As for my dd with sn who has packer lunches, she will not touch school dinners.

D: Not all companies provide these so called nutritional healthy meals, some of laden with junk or sugar, made cheapilly.

I don't believe the stats for a second! 1% of packed lunches have the nutritional value equal to school dinners?? Are you kidding me. There is no way that is true. Scaremongering!!!

gourd Thu 19-Sep-13 12:40:47

Think the idea is that rather than ONLY give free meals to those on low incomes, the meals for all unless you opt out thing will not stigmatise those who receive them. I also think some people's idea of a packed lunch mya not be as good as a reasonable school meal. I do wonder how we can afford this though - if they are eating proper food that is. Cheap carbs (potatoes/white bread/white rice) stil seem to rule many school menus. Makes me think the food will be not that great and I can't see how many primaries will cook fresh food on premises either, as many primary schools no longer have kitchens. I assume it is meals on wheels (at a very low cost) for those without a kithcen on site, which doesnt sound that tempting, unless you have no other option (i.e. will have no meal at all if you dont eat the free one). Hmm looks like hearty packed lunch is still the best option for those who can do it though.

gourd Thu 19-Sep-13 12:56:07

Crisps and pop is not a packed lunch to me but I expect this is where the "School dinners are better" argument comes from as I have seen children for whom this is their normal lunch (and breakfast). As a kid I had a chicke legs, salad and fruit for my packed lunch, or homwmade quiche and salad but was considered odd by others - this was in the 1980s when corned beef and crab sticks were considered good family foods.. Think the majority of people actually expect a lot more from their meals now, and that is part of the problem with school dinners. If you want a decent hot meal in school it will not be cheap to produce or to buy. Providing something that's not nice to eat or just cheap filler with littel nutrition may not help anyone - which child is going to opt for fruit over cake, or for roast vegetables over chips, and which child wants to eat cold salad/sandwich rather than hot meal on a cold winter day, even if that hot meal is chips and tiny bit of processed fish flakes encased in more greasy carb/fat mixture...

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 12:58:52

YY to giving each class a TA instead or decent books(the books my KS 2 kids bring home are dire quality,all dog eared). Or some kind of extra reading support on a daily basis to those struggling(given the impact that being an able reader has).Really in this time of austerity free school meals for a few(many of whom don't need them) is of the utmost priority?

Soooooo worth making all these people fall behind in their rent we're hearing about today.So little Johny gets to have the same lunch as the organic yaks milk drinkers but goes home worrying if he's going to be evicted.hmm

issynoko Thu 19-Sep-13 13:05:47

I think if parents can pay and are happy to pay this is a waste of our money. As usual. Have eaten the school meals with our children several times (once a term they have a parents' week + am a school governor so go in for other days too) which is why I totally understand why ours ask to have packed lunch instead. Mostly I do pack lunch, the school lunch is a last resort if I'm disorganised. Thank god I'm such a irritating food snob marvellous and resourceful cook.

ReallyTired Thu 19-Sep-13 13:18:12

I think we need more evidence based spending. The universal free school dinner trials were in deprived areas. The introduction of universal free school meals made a huge difference in Newham and Hull because the parents didn't have the money or the knowledge to put together a decent packed lunch.

It would be interest to do a trial in surrey to see if universal free school meals made a difference to the results before giving fsm to all key stage 1 children.

Madasabox Thu 19-Sep-13 13:33:17

I would think mumsnet is not necessarily a representative sample when it comes to packed lunches in that you have a bunch of motivated caring mums obviously focused on making sure their apparently fussy eating children eat their carefully nutritionally balanced lunch box and don't just eat the bits they like and chuck the rest. I agree that the quality of school dinners is important, but given that all the objectors on here are presumably giving their children beautifully healthy and balanced food the rest of the time, then will 5 lunches a week really skew the balance for them that much?

The key thing here is what the research shows: literacy improves, behaviour improves and even if this benefit in literacy and behaviour is most evident in those children on the cusp of FSM, then do we really as more interested/nutritionally aware parents begrudge that? Is this not a case of the general social good being more important than a selfish "my little johnny is really fussy" attitude. After all little Johnny can come home to his lovely home cooked nutritious dinner while his more borderline class mate may well not. And even those less nutritional school dinners will be better than the crap some of these children get at home (and my DD's school meals are gorgeous and far more varied than I make and before anyone says it, I make a lot of effort, I probably just don't push the boundaries of her taste enough - cauliflower biryani anyone?). So this is a social issue and if we are arguing that well we don't really care about benefiting other children only really our own, then think about this - better behaviour from those children does benefit our children so there is a selfish motivation after all.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 13:41:35

Exactly really.

Also up the amount of those getting free school meals,raise the threshold of income from £16k or whatever it is.

The fact is the children needing these meals are a small fraction thankfully,many families provide good food on a small income.

Then put more into breakfast clubs and literacy support.If they can't read a cooked meal isn't going to help.

There are far better ways to raise attainment but then they wouldn't buy votes would they.Unless they increase dinner staff and training half this food will end up in the bin anyway.

Snelldog Thu 19-Sep-13 13:47:32

Totally agree Madasabox

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 13:50:52

Also Madagasgar it is important for all children to have a proper lunch ,getting through the afternoon on cake and bread will be detrimental to even Jamie Oliver's kids.

pyrrah Thu 19-Sep-13 13:51:03

I live in Southwark where all primary school children get free school meals already.

I was delighted by it - first it makes up for them swiping my child benefit which we just hit the cut off for unlike our neighbours who earn far more between them.

Secondly, having seen the menu I'm rather wondering if I could pop round for lunch too! Our school sends out a list of all their suppliers who all happen to be local businesses thus supporting the community.

Then, I have a picky eater who eats well at school because everyone else is having the same - packed lunch would be a nightmare scenario.

The very high take-up will allow schools to plan better and make the meals more economical to produce.

A big sop to voters obviously, but not one I will complain about.

not read too much on it but see it as a good thing, the school my children go to there are some children who will really benefit from this. ds will just miss the cut off as he will be going into y3 when it begins. he has had packed lunches for the 3 years as it was easier to see what he was eating and cheaper in the long run to manage with stuff we already have at home like yoghurts,fruit and we were not eligible for free school meals despite being low income.

newgirl Thu 19-Sep-13 14:07:28

I think we are very lucky - the school meals at my kids school are good and they deal with allergies easily.

I support the plan - takes away stigma, hot food is good on drizzly cold day etc

I think plan needs to make sure the cooking standard is good, meals are varied and balanced and the environment is pleasant with adults helping children where needed

Love the idea of schools having home-grown veg on school lunch menus - idealist but hey why not

ringaringarosy Thu 19-Sep-13 15:41:24

my kids school has no kitchen,theres only one boy in my sons class who has fsm and he gets a packed lunch sent every day i thinkwhat will schools without facilities do?

From what ive heard from other mums at school not many people want fsm,i would rather send mine with a packed lunch.

Isn't the pupil premium paid for children qualifying for FSM? How will this work if all infants have FSM, so there is no way to tell who would merit the pupil premium?

Nadienoo Thu 19-Sep-13 16:42:43

My children are on FSM's anyway and they love it... It all sounds so nice compared to what I had when I was at school... My county council runs a nourish food service and they have stuff like chilli con carne, chicken fajitas, curry, all served with veg and a choice between a 'treat' pudding- like Mississippi mud pie or carrot cake- Fresh fruit and a yoghurt... My kids love it and sometimes when I'm ordering it I feel a tad jealous at what they are getting for lunch!!!

I also agree with the people saying they should extend it to primary school up to year 6. Its comforting to know that when It gets cold they are getting something warm in their tums to get them through the day.. smile

LaGuardia Thu 19-Sep-13 17:23:16

I think they will take us back to the Turkey Twizzler days to cut costs.

dreamingofsun Thu 19-Sep-13 17:29:50

nadienoo - do they not have central heating in your schools then?

handcream Thu 19-Sep-13 17:36:02

I wonder if its cheaper to give it to all then start deciding who is eligble and who isnt....

I have also never understood anyone allowing their kids to go to school without breakfast. My DM who is an ex school teacher and still volunteers at her old school says that often the child will say Mum is in bed or even that there is no one at home....

Who are these feckless people who cannot even be bothered to take personal responsibility for feeding their children.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 17:38:06

Mississippi Pie and Carrot Cake(cake is cake) are what we are supposed to aspire to.hmm

I take it the gov rhetoric re poorer people not having to pay tax for wealthier people's benefits is now out the window.So can I have my CB back seeing as my dc won't be getting this benefit and thanks to the loss of my CB don't have school dinners and thus have to endure a cold meal at lunchtime?hmm

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Thu 19-Sep-13 17:40:57

How is Mud pie and Carrot cake healthy? My packed lunches are certainly healthier than that, and do include a "treat" (not that we ever describe it as such, and I would be rather pissed off with a school introducing the idea of treat food to my dcs).

Madasabox Thu 19-Sep-13 17:49:29

I am not sure why people find it hard to understand that the children of so called rich parents can also be given poor nutrition (perhaps because their parents can't be arsed or because they are too busy or whatever). Poor nutrition for children is not the preserve of the poor you know. Universal school meals and banning packed lunches would take away the differentiation and treat all children as equal irrespective of background, which frankly we should anyway as they are children! I came from an affluent family and my packed lunch was whatever my mum had to hand that morning (very disorganised). Frequently a mars bar sliced between two slices of white bread and butter.

duchesse Thu 19-Sep-13 18:04:46

God loads of children in the very leafy Surrey town I used to live fed their children on chicken nuggets and chips (or equivalent) every single night.

Another beneficial side-effect of free schools will possibly be less absence due to the fact that chaotic families will rely on the lunchtime hot meal. Once going to school/ taking the child to school becomes an ingrained habit, less likely to be a problem later on in school.

Northernbynature Thu 19-Sep-13 18:14:24

I totally agree, Madasabox. Very well put!

SoupDragon Thu 19-Sep-13 18:21:54

Universal school meals and banning packed lunches would take away the differentiation

It also takes away choice and the preferences of the children.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 18:23:15

Who said it is?hmm

It's not universal half the kids aren't having it but their parents are still paying for it.

I suspect it'll only be the squeezed middle with ks2 kids that won't have school meals and will end feeling the odd ones out.My CB exactly covered school dinners x3 which they don't now have as they're too ££££ and shite so hard to justify.

ihategeorgeosborne Thu 19-Sep-13 18:26:46

I think universal free school meals for all primary children is a good idea. I think it should be extended to year 6. I have slight reservations about the food quality across the board and whether or not providers will up the prices on account of the government subsidy though. I think they should look at help for travel to and from schools as well. Having lost CB for 3 dc, bus fares and school dinners are expensive. The dc have sandwiches at the moment as school meals are £2 a day and I can make a lunch pack for less. Pensioners have bus passes so why shouldn't children?

Nadienoo Thu 19-Sep-13 18:33:43

dreaming Yeah I think so, but its still nice knowing they have a hot meal before they go out to play IMO...

The mud pie and carrot cake are treats... my eldest DD went through a phase of having the treat puddings everyday but got sick of them and now has a yogurt most days... Its not the schools menu, its the county council scheme across most schools in Northamptonshire.

The menu for this term <<< during the spring/summer they have salads and stuff... its not the worst menu I've seen by far...

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 18:37:36

Lovely,but not getting how it's better than your average Joe Bloggs packed lunch.

HarrietIsHistory Thu 19-Sep-13 18:38:33

No use to us with allergies, will just make them feel even more different.

Would much rather have my CB back tbh.

ihategeorgeosborne Thu 19-Sep-13 18:40:45

Agree Harriet. It still hacks me right off.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 18:42:41

Is it just me or is a biscuit,milkshake,chips and fish fingers a tad too much sugar and fat in one meal?hmm

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 18:43:38

A spoonful of veg on the side does not a healthy meal make- just sayin.

girliefriend Thu 19-Sep-13 18:49:33

omg there is a lot of precious parents on this thread!!

Only mn could turn this into a bad thing grin

HarrietIsHistory Thu 19-Sep-13 18:51:03

Yes, I also have some doubts about how 'healthy' our school dinners are. They aren't made on site, they are made in a secondary school which is miles away and then driven in, we only have a receiving kitchen, no actual cooking facilities at all. They arrive luke warm and basically get a quick nuke in the microwave before serving to the children.

As we are under the paeds and dietitian I have lots of advice on what to put in packed lunches and I really think they are better than the school dinners.

For my two to have school dinners at £2.20 a meal, it is £88 per month. I'd really rather that in CB, which we still sorely miss.

handcream Thu 19-Sep-13 18:56:46

I agree girliefriend. It will bond the kids IMHO, they could end up eating and trying things they dont normally try because their friends are doing so, yet so many precious parents claiming that they want to provide packed lunches etc.

I have many many relatives and friends who pander to their children and worry that they arent getting protein, carbs etc. They offer meal after meal. Just offer ONE meal and if its not eaten, clear away and make clear the next meal is dinner, no snacks, crisps etc. They will soon learn. I dont mean serve them food that is difficult for a young child to like ie sprouts! But a piece of grilled chicken, corn and maybe a potato or some pasta or rice is OK. If they dont eat, then nothing until the next meal time.

Nadienoo Thu 19-Sep-13 18:58:53

Not saying it is Retro, just saying for parents who opt in to have hot lunches or get FSM's its not too bad considering what I used to get when I was a kid... Its just another option is all hmm.. I know it could be healthier, but its a lot better than turkey twizzlers...

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 19:00:21

Not precious but curious as to why creamy pasta bake,garlic bread,jam tart and custard - with broccoli on the sidegrinare seen as healthier and more conducive to learning than your average packed lunch.

I for one would be barely able to move and half asleep after consuming that lot.And lets face it,how much broccoli would be eaten?My kids love broccoli but they love all the rest too and not normally produced with a meal that fat,carb and sugar heavy at home would barely glance at the broccoli.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 19:01:49

Hand how will it bond the kids when half aren't having it and they eat together anyway?

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 19:03:34

Nad fat and sugar wise how is that better than turkey twizzlers?

You can bet your life the ham in the creamy pasta bake aint naice ham but formed.wink

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 19:05:07

Ours have minced fish pieces on a Friday,god only knows what goes into them.

HarrietIsHistory Thu 19-Sep-13 19:06:59

Also, I would still make a cooked, healthy balanced meal for the whole family in the evening where we can sit at the table together and eat, and I don't really want them having two full cooked meals a day, it just seems too much.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Thu 19-Sep-13 19:12:08

Not precious, actually - just wanting dd to actually eat something (preferably healthy) at lunch time. I know how stubborn she is, no way would she eat stuff just because everyone else is (inherited my contrary gene) or even if she is actually hungry and yet she is so ridiculously active she needs a lot of fuel. Not sure how making sure your child has enough of what they like to eat could be seen as precious, tbh hmm.

And it's known that referring to food as treats makes them more attractive - I want her seeing food as food, not as a reward. Mud pie has no place on a daily school menu, IMO.

Nadienoo Thu 19-Sep-13 19:26:50

Not saying eating all of that is better than a turkey twizzler, but for the puddings they also have the option of fresh fruit and a yogurt, which IMO is good because they have to choose one, DD isn't that into puddings, so she usually chooses to have fruit or a yogurt- I don't know about other peoples children but I know what mine are like... Its giving children the choice to pick the healthier option rather than the cake or whatever. I think giving the choice is good thing... To an extent. grin

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 19:31:54

Hmmm jam tart or yog,jam tart or yog?

I know which most kids would choose,so much so they run out of the baked goods. Yogs are the running out pud,yes some good children would choose them but the maj(often those that should) don't.

Any how aren't yogs demon foods the bad mummies put in lunch boxes with too much sugar in?

girliefriend Thu 19-Sep-13 19:34:22

mud pie has no place on a daily school meal = precious!!

When I went to school we had a pudding everyday, it wasn't a treat just pudding and we had things like chocolate pudding with choc custard grin its was bloody lovely. I managed to survive without growing up to have terrible food habits and be obese. My dd has occasional school dinners as I can't afford for her to have them everyday (I wish I could). I think they are about what I would expect really a typical week is usually: roast dinner, spag bol, curry, fishfingers and beans, pasta bake. Puddings include sponge and custard, fruit salad, rice pudding etc I think its fine, kids do need calories and fat in their diet, as long as they are active it shouldn't be a problem.

Sirzy Thu 19-Sep-13 19:35:57

Giving choices is great if you accept that some children will make the wrong choices every time and often (not always) they will be the same children who get fed the 'wrong' foods at home to.

DS will eat anything homecooked which probably wouldn't include most of the over cooked stuff that schools serve up. Its a pain in the backside that he won't even consider eating chicken nuggets because there are very few 'quick' options for teas. But because of that I would much prefer to send him a packed lunch with things I know he will eat.

Retropear Thu 19-Sep-13 19:42:49

Girls that's fine but sorry I don't think packed lunches many of which will obtain half the fat/sugar and a whole lot more veg should be portrayed as the evil option and dinners the good.

Overall I doubt there is much in it.

Unless schools are going to produce healthy menus,employ more dinner staff,force kids to eat veg and not leave/ choose something else whilst erasing their memory of fast food they consume at home going by the swill bins I've seen I fail to see how this will dramatically change anything.

girliefriend Thu 19-Sep-13 19:58:05

It would dramatically improve things for the millions of children who currently don't get a proper hot meal every day and for the ones whose current pack lunch consists of a small sandwich, bag of crisps and a chocolate biscuit. Also for the millions of struggling working parents like me who despite being on a tiny income aren't eligable for fsm this would have made a massive difference.

Sirzy Thu 19-Sep-13 20:00:05

So surely it would be better to use the money to extend FSM across the board so more families are eligible rather than giving it to everyone is a small age range even if they don't need that assistance?

maxybrown Thu 19-Sep-13 20:10:45

My child often goes to school without breakfast whoever mentioned that one.

Not because he has a Mother who is feckless and can't be arsed or always running late. But because sometimes the stress of actually leaving the house consumes him he can't eat or perhaps because it is the wrong sort of day for eating breakfast or because it takes so long to put clothes off and on because they are touching too much. (see above we are awaiting ASD diagnosis)

But yes 9 times out of ten he has no breakfast, the smallest packed lunch (but healthy) he can get away with until he can get home and eat in comfort. He doesn't get social eating sees not one ounce of enjoyment in it, it is stressful for him, food is just a pain to him and mostly he doesn't like it. So no way would it improve his daily learning, though I appreciate for many it will, that I can understand. But removing his choice so that "everyone" feels better al eating the same together, instantly stops him from feeling better, so someone is still suffering. I imagine this will be very similar for many ASD kids. (not just them but using it as an example)

So surely it would be better to use the money to extend FSM across the board so more families are eligible rather than giving it to everyone is a small age range even if they don't need that assistance?


In helping the other children it will also ensure others have a worse diet than they did before.

Sirzy - I definitely agree. We wouldn't bat an eyelid to paying for either packed lunch and school dinners for DD. Why should we get this "benefit" when there are yr 3 children from families just over the FSM threshold struggling to afford either? Is it possibly because we are more likely to vote ConDem or vote at all?

If this has to go ahead then I'd like to see a system where we can pay this benefit back to the school (or schools in deprived areas) to fund something more worthwhile. Perhaps FSM for struggling families with older children or breakfast clubs.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Thu 19-Sep-13 20:52:34

mud pie has no place on a daily school meal = precious!!

Really? hmm. Occasionally, yes - I love a massively calorie-sugar-fat laden pudding as much as the next person (maybe more...) but I really don't think children need to be eating them daily. Perhaps your understanding of what precious is is very different to mine. And you are lucky that you have avoided obesity - well done you - the fact (as is now becoming clearer) is that sugar is the main contributor to obesity levels, and levels among children are rising.

So I stand by my assertion that high sugar cakes and puddings have no place in a school menu. Not precious, thank you very much.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Thu 19-Sep-13 20:54:28

And yes, breatheslowly I agree - I'd happily donate ds's fsm to an older child. That would be a great option, if this has to happen.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Thu 19-Sep-13 20:55:18

Dd's, not ds's. although his too when it becomes relevant.

Offering a "treat" pudding everyday means that they aren't actually treats. I'd rather leave treats for the weekend so that I get some too.

HarrietIsHistory Thu 19-Sep-13 23:09:06

Whilst we aren't rich and we won't benefit because we'll have to keep spending on packed lunches because of allergies, I'd much rather that the FSM threshold was raised and those that might benefit from them get them throughout years EY-Yr6 rather than a blanket FSM for all infants.

I'd rather a just-over-the-threshold-but-struggling family get a FSM than my DC, doesn't seem fair.

It seems a little odd to introduce a blanket universal benefit when they are taking old universal benefits away. Why means test CB but give universal FSM? They seem like conflicting policies.

Bumpstarter Thu 19-Sep-13 23:24:20

We have also recommended that free school meals should be extended to all primary school children, starting with the most deprived areas

From the food plan, as linked above. This lot are crackers. They have a clear recommendation that the fsm needs to be introduced in the most deprived areas first. So why are they doing it by age?


Bumpstarter Thu 19-Sep-13 23:29:42

Breathe slowly and make hay, thank you for your offers to donate your fsm to the likes of myself. It means a lot. I do hope there will be a facility for this...

insancerre Fri 20-Sep-13 07:52:34

Offering a "treat" pudding everyday means that they aren't actually treats.
It's not a treat- it's part of a balanced meal
children actually need fat and calories as part of their diet

Spottybra Fri 20-Sep-13 08:02:42

I'm not impressed and its not going to win my vote.

A ridiculous policy IMO.

Roll it out first by lowering the threshold for FSM.
Improve the quality of the cooking and the size of the portions. As an ex educator I frequently experienced over cooked vegetables, bizarre combination rules and I know that not every school cooks meals on site, some schools can cook for three or four surrounding schools and ship the meals out.

DS will remain on packed lunches with his wholemeal or rye bread, 2 portions of fruit, cheese and biscuits, a yoghurt and a small piece of homemade cake.

Sirzy Fri 20-Sep-13 08:06:23

They don't need that fat and calories to come from sugar filled cakes though.

I don't deny that children need fat and calories, but they don't need sugar. Perhaps we are an unusual family, but our meals don't have puddings. We definitely manage to get enough fat and calories.

Essiebee Fri 20-Sep-13 08:59:04

Criminal waste of money; should be spent on extra teachers (far too many TAs already)and classrooms; very suspicious about where £600,000,000 is to come from;
Many school dinners pre-cooked and frozen off the premises; is this really a healthy option?
An excuse for even more families to avoid a cooked evening meal;
Better to police bedtimes and breakfasts if they really want to improve children's performance in school (although impossible to achieve);
Any consideration given to the extra time needed to serve 100% of children rather than 40% maximum take-up at present?
but: glad to see all parents would benefit, particularly the 'better-off' parents who actually contribute the taxes in the first place;

Retropear Fri 20-Sep-13 09:16:15

Interesting article in the Guardian questioning the research,the queues,food complaints and the fact that spending money on boosting attainment in other ways would have a far bigger impact- but then that wouldn't buy votes would it.[cynic emotion]

The cost is going to be far bigger when you factor in the cost of building new kitchens,extra equipment for those that have them.Personally unless they massively increase / train dinner staff too(another expense) a lot of all this money will simply end up in the swill bins.

Question- what are you going to do with the kids that never have or like veg?Are you going to make them choose it and remove desert until they've eaten it(can just see the steaming parents now)? If they don't choose it are they just going to have a plate with just a piece of meat and two potatoes ie go hungry?At the mo they give them bread if they don't want the veg and carb and they fill up on the sugary dessert.

I'll wager the schools in the study had extra staff helping choices and sitting with reluctant veg eaters and how long would that last in the real world?

benandgerry Fri 20-Sep-13 09:16:56

I used to have school meals and can still remember how hungry I used to get by lunchtime, despite usually having 2 bottles of free milk at break. Was a very active child, non car owning family so walked and cycled everywhere.
Meat, gravy, veg and mashed potatoes followed by sponge and custard felt like exactly what we needed and we all cleared our plates.
Wholemeal sandwiches and fruit might be a healthy meal for an adult, and perhaps a very inactive child, but wouldn't have given us the calories we needed to keep going (and growing).

Retropear Fri 20-Sep-13 09:19:46

Ben then you add cheese and send more sandwiches.Not hard and fills my growing boys up beautifully.

Whole meal bread fills you up better than white which they serve at school and our menu contains sandwich and snack options the kids often choose.Have had many a battle tying to make kids choose the cooked option.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 20-Sep-13 09:28:41

I think it will be really good for families on a low income who receive FTC because they are unable to claim atm even though they have the same income as those able to claim.

I hope they extend it to juniors in time.
If it isn't what some parents and children like then they can send a packed lunch instead.

Snelldog Fri 20-Sep-13 09:56:00

I am amazed that here on mumsnet a lot of people cannot see that the benefit in this is not for those whose children have delicious balanced packed lunches (and a variety of food at home). It is for those children who don't.

We won't benefit as my dc is at a private school - however, I am very happy for my tax to be spent on this policy as some children do not get enough to eat

Sirzy Fri 20-Sep-13 10:02:22

For 3 years of their education. It's hardly going to do much long term is it and you can bet that after the election any talk of extending is forgotten!

Using money to improve the nutrition of children is great but I am not in any way convinced this will do it.

Why not give money to schools to provide free/very cheap breakfast clubs for everyone so no child starts without food. Spend the money on making sure more children get access to free school meals for their whole school career.

Or even spend money on helping families improve their view of food and cooking skills, invest in vastly improving the "food technology" lessons in school so that children have the skills to make changes in the long term

Retropear Fri 20-Sep-13 10:03:54

Smell those are a small proportion already being catered for.There are better ways to reach more of those truly in need,up the fsm threshold,bringing in breakfast clubs and give free breakfasts on top not free meals for families the maj of which don't need it,others are paying for and not getting.

I thought universal credit was supposed to make things easier,they means test CB so it isn't that hard to reach more needy children.

The vast majority of parents are perfectly capable financially and otherwise to feed their kids and should be doing so without relying on others to do it for them.

Snelldog Fri 20-Sep-13 10:11:59

I think the issue is that there are parents who don't care. There are also families who just don't have food in the house. I am helping out at a foodbank at the moment - some of the stories are shocking

Retropear Fri 20-Sep-13 10:13:46

Well those families will be helped by the threshold being raised and helped more by breakfast clubs.

Sirzy Fri 20-Sep-13 10:15:04

And they are the families which should be being helped not those who are perfectly capable of affording food

Retropear Fri 20-Sep-13 10:15:30

Re parents who don't care ss should be involved.You don't spend millions to mop up a few families- unless you want to buy votes.

It's chucking money away that could be spent on those who really need it.

ThisIsMummyPig Fri 20-Sep-13 10:27:46

Part of my job involves administering FSMs. You could very easily extend the scheme to include those who are eligible for Working Tax Credit. This would pick up the so called 'Squeezed Middle' (in my opinion it's more of a pissed upon middle) and would only involve a little more administration (a quick check once a year).

On a personal note, I decided not to put my DD on school dinners as she really struggles with a knife and fork. You can't see this with sandwiches, but it would embarrass her if she had school dinners.

ReallyTired Fri 20-Sep-13 10:30:08

"On a personal note, I decided not to put my DD on school dinners as she really struggles with a knife and fork. You can't see this with sandwiches, but it would embarrass her if she had school dinners."

Lots of children struggle with a knife and fork at school. Dinner ladies are usually kind. I am sure she would learn quick enough if he had school dinners. Just like reception children's dressing skills improve dramatically in the first term.

Snelldog Fri 20-Sep-13 10:59:11

Retropear - respect your view, but don't agree this would catch the most vunerable. There have been some shocking cases recently and not all children who are hungry are on FSM

Retropear Fri 20-Sep-13 11:30:34

If you're referring to the two cases recently a free school meal wouldn't have saved either.

DP died because several agencies let him down.

If they raised the threshold all hungry children would be catered for.Those not eligible and not feeding their dc sorry but i's a SS issue.If SS let them down that is a whole different issue.

Most families on low,middle and high incomes feed their children properly.

And if it's enforced and packed lunches are banned you are merely shifting the hunger/malnutrition to a different group of children.

Many of whom won't be able to speak up.

Sirzy Fri 20-Sep-13 11:53:03

and do we think one free meal term time only for just 3 years is suddenly going to solve issues?

No it's not sirzy

It's going to make the kids less identifiable

And surely that's a bad thing. Because you can't help what you can't see.

bedhaven Fri 20-Sep-13 12:08:05

Given that they think a large number of children living in poverty aren't currently entitled to free school meals and the massive benefits in learning seen when these are provided it has to be done. Unfortunately the cost of more adequately assessing family wealth will always outweigh the cost of the free meals for those that could afford it.

Sirzy Fri 20-Sep-13 12:09:22

Exactly wheresmy

This is more of a sticking plaster than any sort of real solution to problems.

It's not even done for the kids benefit. It's fine to make them feel that they are doing something to help.

If they cared so much then why will one kid get fed and the other kid from same family goes without. Good for the kid who gets fed but bloody torturous for his brother to sit and watch.

And what for. So they can take it away again, how's that kid going to feel knowing that today he gets fed in six weeks he won't.

Done (not fine)

Perhaps if they hadn't bloody cut everything the kids wouldn't need school to feed them in the first place.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Fri 20-Sep-13 12:25:11

I am amazed that here on mumsnet a lot of people cannot see that the benefit in this is not for those whose children have delicious balanced packed lunches (and a variety of food at home). It is for those children who don't

Oh, I absolutely can see this. I just don't think a chuck-a-policy is the way forward., and I would find a way to donate ds's fsm to someone who actually does need it in the higher years. It would be more useful for older children, I think, if it has to come in at all. And extending the current scheme rather than a blanket give-to-everyone-regardless would be even better.

As for fat and calories, there are many, many ways of getting those into a child without resorting to cakes and mud pies. Proteins and whole grains are much more sustaining and filling than refined carbs and sugars (I know this from experience, having been on a diet that cut these out - and had a lot more energy for it). Egg, cheese, yoghurt, avocado, nuts, fruit... all full-fat, high energy and long acting. That's what my high-energy dd eats and what she would not get enough of on school meals.

Chigley1 Fri 20-Sep-13 12:31:10

Having worked in schools I just don't see how it can work on a practical level. If you suddenly have double the number of children eating a cooked meal it will mean the school needing a bigger kitchen, more staff (unless it's the bussed in meal variety) and twice as much time to serve it all up.

And increased home work /school hours to allow for the extra time needed for all the kids to queue, eat and play.

Lalunya85 Fri 20-Sep-13 12:58:21

If they are (reasonably) healthy, this is a great idea. Not only does it remove the stigma of FSM as others here have pointed out, it also gives children a warm meal for lunch which I think is so much better than a packed cold one. Especially in the colder months.

Do they come with a portion of salad or greens?

Snog Fri 20-Sep-13 13:14:58

Great idea but needs to be high quality tasty food too.
We should also provide free breakfasts - porridge and fruit.
This would benefit learning which would improve the class environment for all. It would help working parents and parents struggling financially. And it would help the hungry children whose parents do not fed them properly.

HSMMaCM Fri 20-Sep-13 13:16:02

It'll be like the free education for 3-4 yr olds (which costs childcare providers loads).

The Government will give the schools something ridiculously low, say 10p per child per meal, make a big announcement that they have funded meals for all the children and then the school will have to suck up the cost somehow and the caterers will have to buy cheap food and serve smaller portions.

ruthie48 Fri 20-Sep-13 14:47:24

Sadly I missed out on a good idea( kids at snr school.) however as a busy tired staff nurse, I would rather have free breakfasts than lunch as 'twas always madness trying to get the kids ready for school, never mind breakfast!

Offred Fri 20-Sep-13 14:51:17

I'm all for universal entitlement to things but this plan where the free meals ends when children hit juniors will just destabilise family finances by landing families with extra costs when their kids hit junior school and will be of minimal help.

I agree that if they are concerned about children getting enough to eat and the right food that they need to stop eroding living standards, benefits and wages which are forcing families to rely on food banks and they also need to standardise school lunch provision. There are massive differences in the quality of lunches, ours are stodgy, grim and made offsite and kept warm, they make me feel a little bit sick and I wonder how many nutrients are even in them after being carted around the LA having been kept warm and made from bulk ingredients which are unlikely to be the freshest.

The trouble with packed lunches is all this convenience food people are being encouraged to buy by the supermarkets and food production companies the govt have been hiring as advisors and I'm sick of my children who do have a healthy lunch - sandwich on brown homemade seeded bread, low fat yoghurt and a piece of fruit and/or veg, coming home with crisp/snack pack packets they have been given by other children.

There is a problem but this won't fix it and I agree with wheresmy.

lachrymavitis Fri 20-Sep-13 15:12:37

This really concerns me. It's another example of the nanny state.

The meals served at the school my children go to are fine but they are not what I would consider particularly healthy, they are certainly no more healthy than the packed lunch they have every day.

At the moment I also know what my children have eaten every day as I can see what is returned in the lunchbox.

I am not vegetarian but I am very fussy about the quality of the meat we eat at home. There have been problems in the past with companies sourcing cheap meat and actually serving up meat meant for animal food in hospitals and schools. I don't want my children eating that rubbish.

We will end up paying for this through taxation etc. It's ridiculous to think that this is a 'free' meal. I'm very unhappy about it. The next step will be obligatory school meals that we pay a nominal fee for.

DizzyBlondeMum2 Fri 20-Sep-13 16:31:16

Im shocked by comments that state shouldn't be worrying about what children eat. There's lots of evidence that many children go to school son goes to the best school in our town which happens to serve an area of high deprivation. Few of the families are feckless Un employed. Many are hard working and poorly paid. This will make a huge difference to their children's health and ability to concentrate.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Fri 20-Sep-13 16:37:37

Dizzy - I agree, but then they are the children that should be being helped by raising the fsm threshold or providing free breakfasts, not by a cover-all fag packet rent-a-policy. This is not the way to reach those families.

duchesse Fri 20-Sep-13 16:39:16

Yes, damn that nanny state for wanting all small children to have a hot meal at least once a day.

duchesse Fri 20-Sep-13 16:41:19

And frankly when this goes ahead, they could forget about the puddings (usually composed exclusively of cheap carbs anyway) and plough that money back into the main meal. Quality is definitely going to be an issue.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Fri 20-Sep-13 16:44:04

<sigh> I think the point is that it is a poorly thought out, ill-judged policy that demonises those parents that can (and do provide) where they don't actually need to, for the sake of the minority that could be easily helped by a policy that wouldn't cost £600million and make those people who have recently lost things like CB because govt had to save money feel rather bitter and -once again - squeezed.

ouryve Fri 20-Sep-13 16:47:44

Retropear "I'll wager the schools in the study had extra staff helping choices and sitting with reluctant veg eaters and how long would that last in the real world?"

That didn't happen in our school (we're in a pilot area, not a million miles from the school Jeremy vine featured on his show, the other day, so a similar local demographic). DS1 tried the dinners for a while, when they were free. We chose from a printed menu each month and he struggled to find something he could eat, each day, often ending up choosing sandwiches, unless they had mayonnaise in. He frequently threw most of his food away because he didn't like it - and that was with the 1:1 support via his SEN statement to hand. There was no making him eat it. Other kids just had the normal staff about, so even less special encouragement.

ouryve Fri 20-Sep-13 16:49:33

benandgerry - there's 3-600 calories in a typical sandwich, depending on the bread and the contents. It's a complete misconception that a cooked meal contains more calories. It's just warm, not magically more calorific.

racmun Fri 20-Sep-13 17:02:48

This policy is ridiculous. The quality of the good will inevitably end up terrible, there will be a catering company's king a big profit (think 4GS on security sector) and it will cost a fortune.

Lots of people don't need the government to feed their children lunch, the money would be better spent perhaps lowering the threshold for entitlement for FSM and improving the quality so that the children who really need it actually get a decent meal. Also the children who's patents pay would also benefit through better quality food too.

If the quality is awful the people who can afford it will start making packed lunches and the poorer children will be left eating cheap crap basically.

The idea is a nice one but as usual with government policies, I suspect the catering will be outsourced, the money creamed off as profit and the children suffering as a result.

I think people are confusing, saying that it's a stupid idea, with assuming no one cares or thinks that it won't help the children that need helping.

That's not what we are saying. Of course those children should receive the help (and food) they need BUT feeding them for three years is like putting a plaster on a broken leg. Doesn't deal with the real issues and puts off the inevitable dealing with the situation.

No one is saying we shouldn't help, we are saying that it's an impossible task which is going to let down every single child. The complete opposite of the declared intent.

It will- discriminate against the older siblings who don't qualify.

It will- take bloody hours to feed all the kids

Quality will inevitable deteriorate as government reduce the funding or schools expand and take more children.

The apparent "healthy" meal will become a cheap inedible pile of slop. Even in smaller schools where the meals are better than most.

Will the children benefit then from this like of shite that is what becomes of even the best school dinners.

Companies go bust. That will leave all the children with nothing til new suppers are found. That happened at dds school so believe me when I list it as a possibility.

Many many children will in fact end up worse off!!!

And this bonding thing is crap. Kids talk to each other they don't need to be eating the sane bloody thing to interact. They spend all day with each other. If they aren't friends now then lunch isn't going to change that.

Picking up bad habits is much more likely.

MakeHayIsAWhaleNow Fri 20-Sep-13 17:56:55

Totally agree, Caffeine (like the user name, btw...!)

dreamingofsun Fri 20-Sep-13 18:57:56

i just want my children to be taught to an adequate standard, so they can reach their potential and pass exams. i don't need them fed, i can do that

Madasabox Fri 20-Sep-13 21:49:34

Yes you can do that dreaming, but there are lots of parents who can't/won't and it is not necessarily income related. Those who talk about extending the FSM net - as I have said before do you really think it is only less well off parents who feed their children badly. There are plenty of parents well above the thresholds who are frankly not that arsed about what their kids eat. Or do we not care about wealthier children any more? It seems to me that what this policy does is cover all those children whose parents are either: impoverished, struggling, busy, well off, but too busy/not bothered to organise food properly. Those children whose parents care about what they eat are already sending their kids in with healthy nutritious packed lunches ie your children .... are fine. We don't need to worry about those because you are all worrying about them already as this thread demonstrates. It is the others we are talking about and before someone points out that the well off parents can afford to pay for school dinners, in my DD's school in a very posh part of Surrey there is actually a stigma in choosing school dinners for one's child, because it seems to imply that one doesn't care about one's child's nutrition. So parents put down packed lunch option at the start of term and then put minimal effort in. Unfortunately for those children their packed lunches that mummy has thrown together last minute while rushing out the door are not in the slightest bit nutritious.

Yes in an ideal world the money would perhaps have gone on other things in education, but that wasn't the option was it? The option was here have fsm funding for infants or have nothing. Cynical vote winner or not the motivation is largely irrelevant, it is the effect that counts and what this means is that if you all continue sending in your nutritious lovely packed lunches your child is no more worse off, but there are countless other unnamed un-thought of children who are better off because they have at least one calorie laden meal a day.

Let's stop being so negative.