Free school meals and the poverty gap

Recent reports in the national press have indicated that the attainment gap between rich and poor children at school is still growing wider despite the Lib Dems introducing the Pupil Premium (extra cash for schoools for children receiving free school meals) and increasing the coverage of free pre-school hours and free school meals for younger children.

This is a worrying trend that may take some time to reverse. It mirrors that situation in the adult world where the disparity of outlokk between rich and poor families is barely getting any smaller year on year. On reflection I also think that there is a connection between this and the relative take-up of free school meals here in Reading. Only 75% of those entitled to free school meals in Reading actually apply to get them. This brings on a double whammy whereby the school does not get the cash it neds to help children from poorer backgrounds and the parents still have to fork out their own money to provviide lunches for their children.

We need to look at what schools and the local council are doing to ensure that every child who is entitled to free school meals actually receives them. Poorly fed children do not learn as well or as fast as well fed ones.

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