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‘Totally wrong’: Shadow minister condemns free school meals proposals

31 Mar 2022 4 minutes Read
Picture by the Welsh Government

The Welsh Conservatives have attacked plans to roll out free school meals to all primary school children in Wales, describing the proposals announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price at a joint press conference yesterday as “totally wrong”.

The policy is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru and will see free school meals extended to all primary school pupils over the next three years.

Yesterday’s announcement confirmed £25m is being invested in school kitchen and dining infrastructure and from September some of the youngest children in primary schools will begin receiving free school meals as the policy is phased in.

The Tories claim the introduction of free school meals will see the children of rich families being fed on the taxpayer and have also raised concerns about the impact the proposals could have on the Pupil Development Grant.

The grant is aimed at children from the most deprived backgrounds and eligibility for free school meals is currently a key means to determine who receives it.

Pupils currently eligible for free school meals can apply for a grant of £125, which increases to £200 for those entering year 7, recognising the increased costs associated with starting secondary school.

Target support

Responding to yesterday’s announcement, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister Laura Anne Jones MS said: “At a time when there is a cost-of-living crisis, it is totally wrong for Labour and their nationalist partners to collude to give free school meals to the children of millionaires when it has never been more essential to target support at those who need it most.

“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.

“It is abundantly clear that Labour and Plaid are totally out of touch, have no interest in addressing the underlying reasons that lead to people needing free school meals, and do not have the interest of the poorest in society at heart.”

Unprecedented

Confirming the proposals yesterday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Together we have made a joint commitment that no child in Wales should go hungry and that every child in our primary schools will be able to have a free school meal.

“We are facing an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis. 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.

“This cost-of-living crisis is being felt by families all over Wales – extending free school meals is one of a number of measures we are taking to support families through this difficult time.”

Challenges

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said that from “talking to other parents” it was “very clear that families need as much support with living costs as possible, especially given the additional financial challenges people are currently facing”.

“It is an important step towards fulfilling one of our key pledges in the Co-operation Agreement and an example of how constructive joint working is making a real difference on the ground.

“This new capital funding supports the start of the introduction of free school meals for all primary school children. It is also part of a wider agenda to use those powers we do have in Wales to tackle child poverty, which affects a third of our children.

“Removing the stigma associated with having a free lunch will mean that children receive a healthy meal at a formative stage in their development – hungry children cannot learn or achieve their true potential. Together, we’re delivering for Wales and making a difference.”

Revenue funding of up to £200m has been set aside for local authorities to deliver the commitment, with £40m to be provided in 2022-23, £70m in 2023-24 and £90m in 2024-25.


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Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins
1 month ago

This is why we are not Tories! They just love to keep the gap between poor & rich don’t they? This ugly soul doesn’t understand that in a fair system the rich would be, should be paying fair levels of tax to support a fair education system that does put a caste mark on a child from a less wealthy family! God! I hate Tories so much!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Laura Anne Jones MS AKA Not Grayham Jones ?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

In the average primary school in Wales what is the percentage of not well off children to the children of ‘millionaires’ ?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Virtually none, they send their children to private schools

Last edited 1 month ago by Barry Pandy
hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

…where they get taught how to look down on inferiors, enjoy a few spankings and other character forming activities, and, in between, fit a few lessons in basic numeracy (good for fiddling money and scamming) and literacy ( talk and write their way out of getting found out!).

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Prime reason for lack of wealth in Wales is cumulative exploitation over hundreds of years by england-based institutions including Westminster governments Liberal, Tory and Labour. Wake up people of Wales smell the uwd!

Mark
Mark
1 month ago

No Tory can ever proclaim to look out for or understand the poorest in society!

Arfon Jones
Arfon Jones
1 month ago

The underlying reasons why children get FSM is because of Tory social policies.
Clearly Laura Ann Jones doesn’t do irony.

Laura Annie johns
Laura Annie johns
1 month ago

Let’s hope this Welsh assembly does not cut funding and support to the less well of children. Would be very bad if they did.

Last edited 1 month ago by Laura Annie johns
Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

Bit late with that. The assembly disappeared years ago.

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

… and anyway had the “Assembly ” still existed, it would have been the “executive ” [Welsh Assembly Government as was, who would have been responsible, not the Assembly itself. Tony Blair and pals have a lot to answer for. Their deliberate obfuscation has led to the political illiteracy of many like “Laura Annie johns”. Or worse still to some people using the term “Assembly ” pejoratively. LAj’s post should have read “let’s hope this Labour government does not cut …. ” after all they are only marginally more trustworthy than the Tories.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

To the parents of primary school aged children who have just been sacked by Orthios ask Virginia Crosby what happened to the 1.2m quid Covid money she got Orthios!

Any ‘company law’ lawyers on Ynys Mon who might find it in their hearts to do a couple of hours pro bono work having a look at this company… you would be doing the future of Wales a big favour…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Why are Welsh Institutions, Councils and Public Bodies such easy meat for scammers ?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Mick Antoniw and Vaughan Gething you really must do some due diligence on this Holyhead outfit, if an old ‘idiot’ and his research assistant can unravel it so can you…

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago

Finland and Sweden have school meals. They do not say “free”. It is simply sensible.

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

You have to laugh at the Tory party. Against free school meals, using as an excuse, it may feed some of the rich who can afford to pay, whilst at the same time lowering the tax paid by the rich, and increasing the burden on the poor.

Marc
Marc
1 month ago

All of the thousands of millionaires who send their little cherubs to state school can always opt out, simples!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Why don’t the Welsh Tories move lock stock & barrel to England and leave us in peace. They serve no purpose in Wales. We need Conservatism like a hole in the head. All that Andrew RT Davies & Welsh Tories do is criticise for the sake of criticism. And If it rains in Wales will bemoan the fact then call for it to be sunny like in England. To them everything Welsh is bad, all that’s good is English. That’s how petty they are. They forget. Our children are attending school hungry. Obviously there are many factors at fault ,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
Phil
Phil
1 month ago

How many children of millionaires attend state schools, I wonder?

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