SCC today admitted they were not doing enough to promote the take up of Free School Meals (FSM) in Suffolk, thereby denying schools in the county access to £5million of funding through the ‘Pupil Premium’ and pupils the start in live they need.
Following a question at today’s full council meeting Cabinet member for Education, Skills and Young People Cllr Lisa Chambers admitted that Suffolk was way behind the national average.
Labour Cllr Helen Armitage believes this is not good enough. She said ‘other councils have a great record on ensuring Free School Meal take up is as high as it can be, there are councils across the country who have signed up every child who is eligible for free school meals. Why Suffolk County Council cannot do the same is beyond me’.
Suffolk County Council is third from bottom in the take up list behind Richmond upon Thames and Buckinghamshire. Currently 32% of eligible children do not take up their free school meal.
Cllr Armitage went on to say ‘other authorities make it as easy as possible for parents to take up their allocation allowing people to fill in a form on line and submit it that way. It seems crazy in this day and age that parents have to print off and fill in a paper form and drop it at the school office. ‘
The Labour Group have offered a number of solutions to increase take up including creating the form online, better publicity of the free school meals availability, or using the free school meals form as the application form for all school meals. This would decrease the sigma involved in signing up for free school meals.
Cllr Armitage added, ‘It seems to me that the answer is obvious, the free school meals form should be the form required to get any school meal no-one would know if it was a free school meal application.
For more information contact:
Councillor Helen Armitage (Lab)
mobile: 07714 597971
Notes to Editors:
Pupils not claiming free school meals: Samaira Iniesta-Martinez & Helen Evans, Department of Education: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pupils-not-claiming-free-school-meals accessed 17 September 2013