Free lunches launched in Sheffield schools

Nick Clegg at Nether Green Infant School in Sheffield.
Nick Clegg at Nether Green Infant School in Sheffield.

More than 18,000 Sheffield pupils will be able to tuck into a free school lunch from today - an initiative which is predicted to save city parents £5.8 million a year.

All four to seven-year-olds are now eligible for free meals, a scheme championed by the Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats as a flagship policy.

Government officials will be contacting schools this week to make sure no child is missing out.

But not all city primaries have facilities to provide hot lunches on the premises, with some having to rely on a meals on wheels service.

And others are unsure as to how they will cope with the increased uptake as many more youngsters opt for a hot meal instead of a packed lunch.

One headteacher said: “The fact is we can’t be sure how things will go until the first day as we can’t be sure what the demand will be. But we do expect to cope.”

A council spokesman said a lot of hard work had been carried out over recent months to implement the policy, as a small number of schools did not provide hot meals of any kind.

“Our plan has been to ensure that all schools in Sheffield have the facilities and staffing required to deliver universal free school meals effectively,” he added.

Sheffield received funding of £1.1 million to improve catering facilities, with several schools having new kitchens installed. Nationally £150 million has been spent.