More children in Wales start receiving free school meals as part of Plaid-Labour co-operation agreement
The First Minister and Leader of Plaid Cymru will visit a primary school today to welcome the expansion of free school meals to more than 6,000 nursery-age children in schools.
As they return to school after the summer break, whole classes of children in primary schools across Wales are enjoying free school meals together for the first time.
The expansion of free school meals to primary school children in Wales was a key plank of Labour and Plaid Cymru party leaders Mark Drakeford and Adam Price’s co-operation agreement in the Senedd.
Nursery-age pupils attending a maintained school for at least two full sessions, on any one day per week, will be eligible for a free school meal.
“No child should go hungry,” said First Minister Mark Drakeford.
“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.
“We know younger children are more likely to be living in relative income poverty, which is why the youngest of our learners will be the first to benefit.”
Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price said: “As we face a cost-of-living crisis, introducing universal free school meals for primary children, giving children a more equal start in life and helping families make the weekly budget go further has never been more important.
“Through our Co-operation Agreement we are delivering much needed support for families and making a real difference by investing in our schools to provide these meals.
“Over the next three years we will roll-out free school meals across all year groups in our primary schools, meaning no child will need to go hungry while they are in class.
“By working together we are making a real difference to people’s lives.”
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said: “Welsh Conservatives don’t think any child should go hungry, which is why we believe in targeting our limited resources and free school meals towards those who need help.
“However, Labour and Plaid’s universal plan is wrong because it includes millionaire families who can afford to feed their children, spending taxpayer money where it isn’t needed and absolves able parents of responsibilities when they can fulfil them.
“Labour and Plaid’s desire to chase headlines has also blinded them to the implications this would have for those from deprived backgrounds as it distorts how the Pupil Development Grant is allocated. If this goes ahead, we need a new formula to determine who needs that extra money.
“There is a cost-of-living crisis and we need every single penny of public funds to be targeted at where it is most needed, which Labour and Plaid’s blanket approach fails to do.”
£35m of new capital funding will support the roll-out of the scheme. The funding is in addition to £25m of capital funding provided to local authorities in 2021-22.
£200m of revenue funding has also been committed for the day-to-day provision over the next three years.
The first year will focus on building schools’ capacity and aims to ensure that, by the start of the summer term in 2023, most pupils from Reception to Year 2 will be receiving free school meals.
Most children in Reception classes will start receiving school meals from this week.
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