All primary one, two and three children in Argyll and Bute can look forward to enjoying the benefit of a free school meal each lunchtime from January 2015.
Potentially, the number of children with the option to receive a free healthy, nutritious meal in the middle of the day may rise from the current 759 to approximately 2,459.
Research shows children are more likely to concentrate in the classroom in the afternoon after eating healthy school lunches, with improvements to their health as well as their understanding about making better food choices.
In preparation for the new arrangements, introduced by the Scottish Government as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, Argyll and Bute Council have agreed a pilot scheme which will run from October 2014.
The changes will have major implications for some schools, and the pilot scheme will fully test the operational impact and assess the actual cost implications. During the pilot scheme, free meals will be provided to the affected schools for one week on a rolling programme running from 27 October until 19 December. Parents will receive information about the pilot scheme when schools return following the summer break, in mid-August.
The cost to the council of providing the increased number of meals is estimated to be £768,900 during the first year – 2015/16 – to cover additional food, staffing, dining room supervision and extra kitchen equipment. However, the government has indicated it will fund any additional costs may off-set any additional costs to the council and the details of these arrangements are being negotiated through CoSLA.
The provision of a meal to children who may not have one at the moment, for a variety of reasons, is aimed at promoting healthy eating in early years and underpins the council’s commitment to ensuring that every pupil has the best chance of making the most of their education opportunities.
The opportunity for every child to receive a free school meal also promotes inclusion and equality.
The council’s award-winning school meals service and Active Schools work to give children access to sports and other activities which can be built on to help to support a healthier Argyll and Bute in the future.
The school menu is designed largely by pupils, through consultation with them. A programme of Pupil Focus Groups ensures that pupils are able to contribute to the menu's development, and it also gives them an understanding of having a balanced choice.
The Act will further the Scottish Government’s ambition for Scotland to be the best place to grow up in by putting children and young people at the heart of planning and services and ensuring their rights are respected across the public sector.
You can claim free school lunches for your children if you are receiving:
- Income Support (IS)
- Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA)
- Any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit (CTC), but not Working Tax Credit, and your income is less than £16,010
- Both maximum Child Tax Credit and maximum Working Tax Credit and your income is under £6,420
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Universal Credit
- If you are between 16 and 18 years old and receive any of these benefits in your own right, you can claim free school lunches for yourself.