Nick Clegg has ‘pledged’ today that all children in their first three years of primary school in England will get free school dinners from next September. The cynical among you may wonder how parents who couldn’t afford to feed their kids before are suddenly going to find the money when they enter Year Three (perhaps they’ll make us send them up chimneys to earn their dinner money once they turn seven). The more perceptive among you will also note that this will kick in a scant eight months before the next UK general election. How better to get disenfranchised working class voters to vote you back in despite you having repeatedly kicked them while they’re down for the previous 4 years than to bribe them with food for their children? The children they can’t afford to feed properly because the government you have enabled has deliberately depressed wages, encouraged insecure part-time zero hours employers, frozen tax credits, cut benefits, hacked public services to shreds…
The even more cynical among you may recall a previous ‘pledge’ from the Liberal Democrats
and consider that a pledge from Nick Clegg isn’t worth wiping your arse on anyway.
I believe all primary aged children should get free school meals. There’s been studies which have shown huge leaps in attainment in poorer children when they have been involved in pilots (amazing, kids who aren’t constantly hungry can concentrate better! Who’d have thunk it?). Universal free school meals would remove the stigma attached for children and parents currently as no-one would be marked out by having to claim them anymore. It would save schools and councils time and money in administration and means-testing. There are many families (mine included) hovering just above the current income threshold who would have a lot more spare cash for other things if school meals no longer had to be paid for. School meals are a considerable chunk of my wages. If all 3 of my children had them every day it would cost me £22 per week, and my council is one of the cheaper ones. But I believe we should be introducing free school meals for better reasons than this barefaced cynical attempt by the Lib Dems to suck up to voters they’ve been helping the Tories kick up and down the street for the past few years.