Free school meals rolled out early for some primary school students in Neath Port Talbot
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Free school meals will be given out early this year, for year one and two students in primary schools across Neath Port Talbot, starting after half term from Monday November 7.
It means almost 3,000 primary pupils in years one and two will be receiving the meals that are part of a Welsh Government scheme ahead of schedule, where the Welsh Government made the commitment for every primary school pupil to receive a free school meal by 2024.
The first phase of the scheme was rolled out to all reception pupils across Neath Port Talbot primary schools earlier this year in September and was designed to remove the burden of parents having to pay for school meals, making sure all pupils have a nutritious meal each day.
Pupils will now automatically receive free school meals directly through their school at the start of term, and parents do not have to apply. Other primary school year groups will also follow in what is being described as a phased approach to ensure the school’s catering teams are able to meet the demand.
When announcing the plan previously, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “No child should go hungry. Families throughout Wales are under huge pressure because of the cost-of-living crisis and we are doing everything we can to support them. Extending free school meals to all primary schools is one of a number of measures we are taking to support families through this difficult time.
“I’m really pleased to see how our schools have embraced this and the speed at which they and our public services have worked together to begin providing free school meals.”
Councillor Nia Jenkins, Neath Port Talbot Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and training, said: “After seeing the success of the first phase roll-out of free school meals, I am delighted that we are able to bring forward our roll-out to years 1 and 2, especially during the current cost-of-living crisis.
“I am sure this announcement will be welcomed by many parents who are struggling with the rising costs of household bills and fuel prices. We will be implementing the roll-out to other year groups as quickly as possible. We would ask for your patience as we build capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation, and work towards a full school rollout over the next three years.”
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