Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Supporting free school meals for 16-18 year olds

From this September all children have to stay on in education or training for a further two years raising the participation age to 18.

I am supporting my colleague Nic Dakin MP's Private Member's Bill, which would compel the Government to fund free school meals for eligible 16-18 year olds attend colleges. This would bring them into line with the existing arrangements for young people who currently attend schools, academies and free schools.

A free school meal for one year has a cash value of £386, which is a significant proportion of annual income for someone on very low pay. Barnardo's has calculated that for a lone workless parent with two children, this could equal 5% of income.

It is an anomaly that those who go to colleges do not get these free meals. Indeed research by Barnardo's has shown that the most disadvantaged young people are more likely to go to colleges than sixth forms should they go on to further education. This represents in and of itself an example of the poor targeting of much needed resources, and it can be resolved very easily.

I hope that the Bill is able to make some progress, and that the Government will listen closely to the arguments made by Nic, by Barnardo's and other groups that see the value in this.