Pledge to plate: Making sure every primary school pupil gets a Free School Meal

ReportsApril 6th, 2022

Need for flexibility to ensure rapid implementation of universal Free School Meals in primary schools. 

The Labour/Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement contained a pledge to provide Free School Meals to all primary school pupils. This pledge will have a transformative effect on many families. This report sets out to explore what are the barriers to implementation and to consider practical solutions to ensure that the policy is implemented rapidly and effectively.

Key findings

There are three primary barriers to the effective implementation of universal free school meals.

  1. The physical capacity of school dining and catering facilities.
  2. Pressure on both global and local supply chains are likely to cause cost and delivery pressures.
  3. Pressures on staff capacity.

There are ready solutions to these challenges:

  • The Welsh Government should permit local authorities to serve healthy, cold meals in schools whose facilities are not ready for the immediate roll-out of universal hot food.
  • Schools should be permitted to adopt flexible approaches to school lunchtimes including providing lunches in classrooms and the use of multiple sittings as capacity is increased.
  • No parent or guardian should have to make an application for universal school meals.
  • The Welsh Government should provide greater public clarity as to its plans to implement its FSM pledge, including its funding plans.
  • The Welsh Government should work with local authorities to ensure that funds are provided to all primary schools to enable them to provide children whose families are struggling as a result of the cost-of-living crisis with a meal whilst universal FSM are rolled out.
  • Schools and local authorities should work closely with families who fall into debt on their school meals.
  • The Welsh Government should confirm that children from families who have no recourse to public funds will receive Free School Meals as part of its policy to provide universal meals.
  • The Welsh Government should work towards providing Free School Meals in all secondary schools in Wales.

In addition to exploring solutions the Bevan Foundation have identified three principles should underpin the roll-out of universal school meals:

  1. The pace of the roll-out should not be determined by the slowest schools/ local authorities. 
  2. Schools and local authorities that are not ready for full implementation should be provided with temporary flexibility to alter the way that they provide FSM to ensure that all eligible children receive a meal.
  3. Measures should be taken to protect older children living in poverty who will not be eligible for FSMs whilst the policy is implemented.

Pages: 15

Format: PDF

Language: English

Cost: Free



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