EIS Welcomes Free School Meal Progress, but says all Pupils Should Benefit

Created on: 22 Dec 2021 | Last modified: 22 Dec 2021

The EIS has welcomed progress in the roll-out of free school meal entitlement to more young people but called for action to be taken to ensure that all school pupils can receive a free, healthy school meal in the near future.

The EIS has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Shirley-Anne Sommerville, to urge the Scottish Government to commit to free school meals for all pupils as part of its programme aimed at tackling child poverty.

In the letter to the Cabinet Secretary, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan says, “The EIS welcomes the expansion of free school meals to all Primary 4 children at the beginning of this academic session and the imminent expansion to Primary 5s but is clear that provision needs to be extended and accelerated to be inclusive of all young people at all stages of school in Scotland, as an urgent priority.”

Mr Flanagan continues, “As the cost of living rises and the economic shocks of the pandemic continue to be felt, thousands of parents, women who are single mothers especially, are going regularly without food in order that their children can eat, both at home and in school.”

Highlighting some of the issues with the current mean-tested model of free school meal provision for pupils above P5, Mr Flanagan says, “Many families are unaware of their entitlements to free school meals so are missing out; many others fall just below the threshold of entitlement so are missing out; and crucially, many older children- the group who are entirely excluded from the current provision- those who are entitled to free meals, experience real stigma in going to collect one, so miss out rather than suffer the shame.”

Mr Flanagan continues, “Against such a backdrop, the EIS calls on the Scottish Government to act more decisively and with a similar strength of commitment to that shown in the recent budget announcement of the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment from April to offset the cuts to social security that have been imposed by the UK Government. This essential payment will be a lifeline to many families.”

The letter concludes, “The EIS is in no doubt that the Scottish Government is more than capable of such committed endeavour to safeguard families from the worst ravages of poverty, and towards this, would urge that appropriate steps are taken to expand universal free meals provision, in alignment with UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) principles, to all school-aged children without further delay.”