The government has announced that children eligible for free school meals will be offered meals or vouchers if they can no longer attend school due to closures.
In a press release issued by the Department for Education, it has been stated that low-income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals to make sure they continue receiving this support.
To help with the move, the government has published guidance for schools on how they put these actions into place – whether this is by continuing to provide meals for those children in need, or to issue shop vouchers, which can be redeemed at supermarkets or local shops. Headteachers will have the final say on how they wish to implement the move depending on what is best for their pupils and families in their local area.
Currently, 1.3m children in the UK are entitled to free school meals. The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals. The decision to increase the value recognises that families will not be buying food in bulk, which reduces costs.
In the release, Gavin Williamson, education secretary says, “Our school leaders and teachers are central to the country’s response to these unprecedented challenges, and I want to thank them for their calm resilience in the face of adversity. I am reassured by the support they continue to offer all families, particularly the most disadvantaged.
“No child who would ordinarily receive a free school meal should go without this while their school is closed or while they are having to self-isolate at home. By giving headteachers flexibility on how they can get meals or shop vouchers to these children, they can make the most appropriate decisions for families in their communities and provide immediate reassurance that this important support will continue.”
Schools will be able to order vouchers with immediate effect. These vouchers can then be emailed or printed and posted to families. The costs will be covered by the Department for Education, the release states.
Further details will be provided shortly via the published guidance on gov.uk