News Hot meals for pupils could be scrapped at city pri­mary school

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

A PRI­MARY school is mak­ing a last ditch at­tempt to con­tinue pro­vid­ing hot school meals for pupils af­ter pre­vi­ously say­ing they were too ex­pen­sive af­ter bud­get cuts.

Par­ents were warned that East­ern Green Junior School was con­sid­er­ing scrap­ping hot school meals en­tirely in a bid to save cash last month.

A let­ter sent out to par­ents blamed the move on cuts and in­creased run­ning costs.

It said the school, as with oth­ers across the coun­try, was un­der ‘tremen­dous fi­nan­cial pres­sure’ and had been run­ning school meals at a “sig­nif­i­cant loss” for years.

“Cur­rently, the only way in which we can main­tain our school meals ser­vice is by sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing costs of school meals by up to 60% which is both un­fea­si­ble and un­rea­son­able,” the let­ter added.

“An­other al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion is that we be­come a ‘packed lunch only’ school; if this de­ci­sion is made, this is likely to take ef­fect from Septem­ber 2018.”

Now head­teacher Nicky As­ton has said the school, which has 230 pupils ac­cord­ing to the school­guide web­site and was rated good in its last Of­sted in­spec­tion in Novem­ber 2017, be­lieves a “so­lu­tion” has been found. She did not re­veal what that an­swer was, but said par­ents would be in­formed in the com­ing weeks.

Labour coun­cil­lors said a move to scrap hot meals at the school could set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for other strug­gling schools in the city look­ing to save cash.

Gavin Lloyd, who is run­ning for elec­tion in Wood­lands ward where the school is based in the May 3 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, said: “My big worry is this starts be­com­ing a prece­dent.

“How many other schools will jump on board if they see this as a way to save costs when they are strug­gling?”

He said he had spo­ken to par­ents at the school and was con­cerned for their “men­tal well­be­ing” be­cause of the ex­tra stress pro­vid­ing lunches for their chil­dren would bring. “When it does come to a packed lunch there are a lot of par­ents who will grab the most con­ve­nient op­tion, it isn’t al­ways the health­i­est op­tion,” Mr Lloyd added. “No-one has got a lot of time and money is tight these days, and the health­ier op­tions also have a health­ier price tag. My big is­sue with it all is, I have spo­ken with some of the par­ents, and it’s the men­tal well­be­ing of them too.

“They have been pay­ing X amount for their chil­dren to have a meal and ob­vi­ously when the kitchen closes up they will have more stress in hav­ing to find ex­tra time to go to the shops for five ex­tra meals a week. I’ve spo­ken to par­ents who have said that know­ing that their child has got a de­cent meal dur­ing the day means they can have a lighter snack at night and spend fam­ily time to­gether. If the school puts up the costs by 60 per cent, par­ents just can’t af­ford that.”

Coun­cil­lor Ed Ruane, port­fo­lio holder for chil­dren and young peo­ple at Coven­try City Coun­cil , said schools were hav­ing to make tough choices be­tween “cut­ting teach­ing as­sis­tants or cut­ting pro­vi­sion”. He added: “There are some kids who only re­ceive a hot meal at school.

“If this school in quite an af­flu­ent area of Coven­try can’t af­ford to pro­vide hot school meals, then how will your child’s school be im­pacted by the school bud­get cuts?

“I think 102 out of 103 schools are go­ing to see re­duced fund­ing and that’s just go­ing to con­tinue.

“Schools are hav­ing to make the choice be­tween cut­ting teach­ing as­sis­tants or cut­ting pro­vi­sion. For a head­teacher to have to be send­ing out a let­ter like that, I’m not go­ing to crit­i­cise her one bit.”

But Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lors for Wood­lands ward – Julia Le­poidevin, Peter Male and Gary Ri­d­ley – ac­cused Labour of “us­ing chil­dren as a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball” ahead of lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions on May 3. They said: “This is yet more scare­mon­ger­ing from Labour. We have spo­ken to the Head Teacher and they’ve as­sured us as ward Coun­cil­lors that the school will con­tinue to of­fer hot meals be­yond Septem­ber. As ac­tive ward Coun­cil­lors, we’re happy to meet schools in our com­mu­nity and we’ll work con­struc­tively with them to find so­lu­tions to any fund­ing prob­lems.

“How­ever, we will never use chil­dren as a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball.”

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