Yesterday the GMB’s Mary Turner and I launched a campaign to save free school meals from Tory-Lib Dem cuts. Today, in a big own goal by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the new Cabinet are having their first regional meeting in Bradford – one of five areas of the country which was going to trial universal free school meals for primary school children and will now lose out.
I hope they’ll take the opportunity to explain to parents and teachers across Bradford why they’re cutting funding for school meals which would have seen every child in the city get a free hot healthy lunch. We know from when this has been tried elsewhere that it improves children’s health, concentration and behaviour at school.
It tells you everything you need to know about this new Tory-Liberal government’s priorities. We’ve come to expect this sort of unfairness from the Tories but the Lib Dems have form too – they axed free school meals when they took power in Hull a few years ago.
The government wouldn’t need to cut this money if they weren’t determined to pursue their ideological free market schools policy. It will cost hundreds of millions of pounds, which can only come at the expense of other children and other schools. And all the evidence from when it was tried in Sweden is that it will do nothing to drive up standards and will widen the gap between rich and poor, not narrow it.