THIS IS ABOUT DOING WHAT’S RIGHT
School steps up to pay for pupils’ meals
A NORTHUMBERLAND headteacher has said it was “morally correct” for her school to step up and offer £15 each to families of pupils who receive free meals to feed their children over half-term.
Marianne Allan, who runs Cambois Primary School, said she was stepping in after MPs voted against extending free meals over the holidays, despite the campaign from England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.
The school has 88 pupils, more than half of whom are eligible for free school meals, and will be using money raised in donations for the foodbank that it also runs.
Mrs Allan said: “It is morally correct and it is the responsible thing to do. Watching the vote last night made me very upset and I knew I had to do something.
“We have a significant number of children who will be directly affected by this decision.
“This goes long beyond the pandemic. This is about doing what’s right. I’m not doing this to force other schools to do the same or to point the finger.
“We have a small community, but we are very concerned about those in the school who wouldn’t have access to a meal in the holidays.
“Some parents have lost their jobs with a worrying winter ahead for businesses. Some families are unable to make ends meet.”
Every Conservative MP in the North East, bar one, voted on Wednesday night against a Labour motion calling for the voucher scheme to be extended at least until Easter next year. That would mean it covered the upcoming half-term and the Christmas holiday.
Marcus Rashford had been leading a campaign for the scheme to be extended, after previously convincing the government to provide vouchers during this year’s summer holidays.
Mrs Allan added: “This Government needs to spend some time in these communities and see the effects on these families.
“These children are our future, possible leaders of our future. If a free meal helps them to achieve these things then we should do it.
“If a 22-year-old footballer can stand up for what’s right and what’s not, then we all can.”
She said parents were doing their best to provide for their children, but she was aware of some who had lost their job and had to wait six weeks for their universal credit to start.
Mrs Allan added that the local community and businesses were greatly supportive and that bakery giant Greggs helped the school run a breakfast club.
“We have a trolley in each classroom and teachers make toast for the children,” she said.
“On Fridays they have a treat like a croissant, we give them fresh orange and fruit.
“Teachers are making them breakfast every single day and we are funded by Greggs to do that.”
Meanwhile, a convenience store owner in County Durham has said she will put together lunch packs for parents of hungry children next week.
Yvonne Taylor, who runs the Ropery Lane Mini Mart in Chester-leStreet, said the amount of people who have lost their jobs is “devastating” and has vowed to help those struggling. Yvonne is planning to prepare lunch packs which will hopefully be ready to collect from Monday. She said: “I was just so angry and I knew I had to do something because so many people around here need help.
“I put something on the shop’s Facebook page and I couldn’t believe the response.
“I had lots of people asking if they could have a meal and it’s quite heartbreaking. We will try to put together as many as we can. I think we will be busy on Monday.”
The business owner said family and customers have volunteered to make sandwiches and she hoped to add crisps and fruit for the lunch packs.
She said: “I spoke to other businesses and the Market Bakers offered to give us bread buns and I’m asking for some fruit from the local fruit and vegetable stall, everyone is chipping in.”