Free school meal expansion

Haringey Civic Centre

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Hundreds more children in Tottenham are set to receive free school meals, in a bid to tackle inequality.

Haringey Council has drawn up plans to make an extra 650 children between the ages of seven and ten eligible for free school meals.

It comes after the number of children who can claim free school meals from the government fell dramatically in the past ten years, according to a council report due to be approved today (Tuesday). Less than one fifth of Haringey pupils now receive them – down from a third in 2010.

With 34% of families and 40% of children in the borough living below the poverty line, the council hopes providing more free school meals will help reduce inequality.

If the plan goes ahead, youngsters made eligible for free school meals will be “from families who are structurally disadvantaged as a result of high housing costs, low incomes and gaps in the benefits system,” the report says.

It includes children in families living in temporary accommodation, council housing or social housing, and those claiming Universal Credit or legacy benefits but who are not currently eligible for free school meals.

The cabinet report states: “Being hungry at school is detrimental to children’s learning, development, health, and wellbeing. Children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are at greatest risk of experiencing hunger at school, and the effects of hunger widen the gaps in attainment and wellbeing between these disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers.

“Preventing hunger at school is therefore a means of tackling inequality, promoting social mobility and helping children fulfil their potential.”

Once the report gets the green light, the council will work with schools to find the best way of delivering the expansion, which will take place from the summer term.