Why are some pupils missing out on a free lunch?

Why are families in the South East, along with some others from across the country, ignoring the chance to increase their spending power by not taking up the free infant lunch programme on offer in schools? Many of the authorities with the lowest take up in the latest DfE statistics of census day are located in the South East. They include unitary authorities, such as Brighton & Hove, Slough, Reading, Medway and Milton Keynes and counties such as East Sussex and Oxfordshire. All these authorities had a take-up of less than 81% of pupils eating lunch on census day.

At the other end of the scale, Inner London averaged a nearly 91% take-up and Solihull managed to achieve just over 96% take-up. Now, I guess there may be some parents that regard the food on offer as not acceptable for culinary, cultural or dietary reasons, but it is difficult to see why so many parents in some authorities not only forgo an extra £400 or spending money, but presumably also shell out hard cash on creating meals for their children to eat instead. If they don’t think that the food on offer is good enough then they should be lobbying the governing body or MAT trustees for an improvement.

Now, I am sure some of the difference could be a result of how important the local authority still sees its role in education and thus in encouraging schools to provide meals that are attractive and nutritional. This may be less of a concern in areas with lots of academies and free schools.

It could also be that some of these families have children in schools where more emphasis is placed on the breakfast club than on lunch to ensure a healthy start to the day. Of course, locally high incidences of sickness in specific schools may also have played a part in an authority’s position in the rankings. However, it does seem that the further north you travel in England, the higher the take-up was, with London, and specifically the inner London boroughs, being the main exception to this rule of thumb analysis.

The should be sufficient data now available to identify whether pupils in schools with low take-up fare any differently at the end of Key State 1 than pupils in schools where take-up is much higher once  researchers have standardised for all other possible variables; a tough ask.

I guess, with the present funding problems facing schools, there won’t be any real pressure from government for a scheme to extend the free lunch arrangements to Key Stage 2 pupils and, no doubt, some politicians may see the whole exercise as an ineffective use of money, forgetting the benefits to both parents and children achieved by the was the scheme is resourced. The initiative to roll out the scheme for Key Stage 1 pupils was a Coalition government action with some parts of the Labour strongly supporting and other being either lukewarm or downright hostile to the idea.



Who is for the sack?

News story: Department for Educatino: what do you think about our website content?

7 November, 2013 at 04:37pm

Obviously the government information service responsible for the production of the government’s daily bulletin doesn’t employ a spell checker. I wonder how Mr Gove will have reacted on Friday when the above headline landed on his desk, or more accurately in his inbox? Will the poor information officer be able to shrug it off as a bit of the finger trouble we all experience when at the word processor? Indeed, I have already had to correct several mistakes in what I have just entered in the first four lines of this piece. I also understand about the blindness when it comes to proof reading something you have just written. Regular readers of this blog will have spotted the grammatical indiscretions, missing words and even mis-spelt words that have appeared from time to time. But, I am not the government, and I don’t receive any funding for writing this blog: I write it because I want to communicate facts and issues to a wider group, and the power of the internet allows me to do so.

Can you just imagine if a letter to the Secretary of State had arrived from a school addressed to the Department for Educatino? No doubt the offending document would be held up in parliament at a suitable point with some coruscating remark from the Secretary of State, along the lines of the fact such a mistake would never have happened in the days of fine penmanship.  Of course it might have, but before the internet we were much less exposed to these trivial errors. Now, if it had been a video clip it would undoubtedly have gone viral on one of the many media sites.

I hope that this faux pas is seen for what it was, a slip of a mind that was working faster than the hand, and because of the underline the red warning of a mis-spelt word was overlooked. An apology on Monday will suffice to restore the status quo, and we can all go on to comment on the DfE’s web site that is in my view not of a very good quality. But, would I want the DfE to spend more money on improving it or on improving the education of the children in our schools: a no brainer really.

One of my earliest forays into the world of education data was to point out to Hansard that they had printed the wrong pupil teacher ratios for some local authorities in answer to a PQ. In those days, more than 30 years ago, the written word stood, and even if a revised version appeared a day later it could not be cross referenced to anyone consulting the original. In that respect technology has offered us a chance to change the record. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is a matter for debate.