With the final term of the academic year and school exams the focal point for most, many schools are offering free school breakfasts for those taking their exams. This is through an effort to support the rising number of families who are struggling with the costs of the living crisis.
As Headteachers have found, offering a full breakfast for all students taking exams, ensures no student ‘falls through the gaps’. Promoting a healthy start to the day will not only guarantee that students do not go into exams hungry but also further facilitate an environment for young people to succeed; Providing an opportunity for students to do some final revision before entering the exam hall.
This has furthered raised the question to relax the eligibility criteria for free school meals. As research finds poorer pupils are generally further behind on learning than their peers after being hit the hardest academically by the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last month, 12 school leaders from teaching unions have written to the chancellor and education secretary, calling for a more extensive free school meals scheme to include all families on universal credit. This is becoming a more pressing issue, which is needed to be addressed by the government. As it highlights how far England is behind neighbouring Scotland, in which free school meals are universal for all primary school children. This example is now being followed by Wales from this September.
Currently, there is more than 4 million children living in poverty in the UK with 1 million children in poverty missing out on free school meals because of the current restrictions in the system (according to recent research conducted by Child Poverty Action Group). Whilst short-term interventions can be put in place, it is understood that in the long-term, free school meals should provide for all children- without stigma.
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