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