Ruddington’s schools are welcoming the announcement by Nottinghamshire County Council that it will continue to fund Free School Meals for the October half-term and over two weeks at Christmas.
This means that village schoolchildren will be among more than 25,000 across the county who will receive 250,000 meals during the October break.
Councillor Tracey Taylor, chairman of Children and Young People’s Committee, says that the Council recognised the cost of living challenges were impacting on large numbers of people and was grateful to receive the funding to continue the support until the end of the year. The £15-per-week vouchers will be distributed to those eligible by St Peter’s Junior School and James Peacock Infant & Nursery School in Ruddington, as well as older village children at secondary schools further afield who also qualify.
It follows the Government’s announcement early this week to support those most in need with the ‘£500m Household Support Fund’. Councillor Taylor is delighted the grant will help families who most need it during the school holidays.
“This will be very welcome news to families across Nottinghamshire and it will be one less thing for them to worry about this winter” says Cllr Taylor. “This Council was one of the first in the country to support the Free School Meals initiative in March 2020 and I’m very pleased that we will continue to back it. The Council’s budget is under huge pressures, and while this is not a long-term solution, Government has made the funding available to support low-income families across Nottinghamshire this winter and that is good news for hundreds of families.”
St Peter’s Junior School Head Teacher, Michael Bradley, agrees it’s good news: “Over the past few years, we have unfortunately seen the number of pupils eligible for free school meals more than triple at St Peter’s. One of the main reasons for this is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which is still being felt across our community. As a result, we have an increasing number of families who are struggling financially at the moment and are anxious about how they will manage this winter.”
He adds: “I believe that how a society treats those most in need – particularly our children – should always be the measure of its humanity. Although there is a lot to do if we are going to eradicate child poverty altogether, I welcome the news that Nottinghamshire County Council are continuing to fund Free School Meals in the October and December half term break.”
It appears the Government has learned its lesson since a Commons bid this time last year to extend free school meal vouchers to holiday periods during the COVID-19 pandemic was rejected by MPs. It led to a public outcry – then a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to feed kids in need – which was supported by several Ruddington businesses.