November 2013

The know zone

  • Pensions unpicked
    Thought about retirement yet? However far off it may be, start looking now at your options, says David Binnie. There may be unforeseen complications but also opportunities. More
  • Squeezed middle
    Schools may need to become lean and mean in order to adapt to new funding levels, says Sam Ellis, or they may find themselves facing a budget crisis. More
  • Raising the stakes
    Ofsted judgements look likely to be tougher in key areas under the revised guidance introduced in September, says Jan Webber. And the bar is being set higher for achieving ‘good’. More
  • Leading education
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the association’s policy-making body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Education Committee. More
  • Council focus
    What does it mean to be a Council rep? More
  • ASCL PD events
    New to the leadership team, Leadership for Outstanding Performance, and Homerun for Headship More
  • First term almost over
    ASCL Professional Development (PD) offers high-quality, relevant, up-to-date and competitively priced courses. Our training is delivered by a team of skilled trainers and consultants, almost all of whom have been headteachers or senior school leaders. More
  • How do you say?
    Focus on... 1,000-words challenge More
  • Adding value
    Time to protect your pension pot? More
  • Food for thought
    The government plans to spend £600 million on free school meals (FSM) for every child in a state-funded infant school and disadvantaged students in further education. Is this a good idea? Is this money well spent or should it be spent elsewhere? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Choice language?
    Would you like IT with your G&T? Or, like Eric Hester, are you bemused by the proliferation of acronyms? More
Bookmark and Share

The government plans to spend £600 million on free school meals (FSM) for every child in a state-funded infant school and disadvantaged students in further education. Is this a good idea? Is this money well spent or should it be spent elsewhere? Here ASCL members share their views.

Food for thought

Waste of funds

This proposal is a waste of educational funds that could be better spent elsewhere. I fully support the FSM process but only for those who need it, not for everyone.
Christine Burns
Vice principal, John Taylor High School, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire

Direct funding elsewhere

I do not think this is a good use of public funds. A figure of £600m could be utilised in far better ways to improve education or improve funding across the sectors.

The majority of families can afford either a school meal or a packed lunch for their primary age child and this will just be an added bonus to such parents. Many schools now use cashless catering and, therefore, FSM children cannot be identified, so the ‘stigma’ argument is very weak.

I do believe that a decent meal at lunchtime can aid learning; however, I also believe that schools are very aware of children who may be missing out or who are not being provided with a packed lunch. Primary schools do have a nurturing ethos and these children are usually supported to ensure that they do eat at lunchtime.
Janet Atkinson
Business Manager, Alleyne’s Academy, Stone, Staffordshire 

Only for the needy

So sad to be spending money like this at a time of austerity! In my street, there is a very wealthy businessman whose child goes to school next year. He will get a free meal for that child when he is more than able to pay! At the same time, in my school I have families living on food banks that go to the local Christian centre to ensure a hot meal once a week and children that come to school hungry.

Is this a good use of money? – seems to me like a policy for universal fuel allowance that even gave it to millionaire pensioners living in Spain!
Julie Bloor
Principal, Shirebrook Academy, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Make existing system fairer

The only perceived benefit would be some children, infant and FE, being allowed an FSM without incurring any ‘stigma’ of an application form. However, the disadvantages are numerous: limited coverage, school facilities, parental choice, a skewing of the deprivation indicator and the knock-on effect to the Pupil Premium.

Surely, the funding could be better used making the existing FSM system easier and fairer for all. By providing free systems to schools to manage the application and tracking process online and widening the eligibility criteria to those on the income threshold, there would be easier take up based on choice, less administration, no detriment to schools’ funding and more students entitled to a FSM. Surely this should be about a longer-term plan instead of a short-term vote winner.
Jane Taylor
School Business Manager – Finance, The Arthur Terry School, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Parental responsibility

While I wholly support the need to provide a meal for children from homes who cannot afford to do so, I do begin to wonder at what stage parents have responsibility for their own children. Would it not have been more financially efficient to leave the family allowance in place?
Janet Inglis
Deputy Headteacher, Immanuel College, Idle, Bradford

No guarantees

This would be a good use of taxpayers’ money if it could be guaranteed that all infant children would access the nutritious meals provided. However, I very much doubt that this will be the outcome. As long as parents have the choice of providing their child with a packed lunch, they will continue to do so. It may well help some parents who are on the cusp of being eligible for FSM. A better use of money would be to aim something at the parents in terms of encouraging a healthy packed lunch.
Andrew Blench
School Business Manager, Dinnington Comprehensive School, Dinnington, Sheffield

Good idea

The ‘level playing field’ works best when every aspect of our provision is available to pupils free at the point of delivery. Introducing free school meals for every child is a force for good and I support it.
Matthew Wheeler
Business Manager, Hodge Hill Sports & Enterprise College, Birmingham, West Midlands

A good move

I think this is a very good move on the part of the government. Many pupils come to school hungry even though their parents are not in the benefit system and it is a basic need. This should be used as an opportunity to insist on excellent standards of nutrition and take up of the meals should be monitored to ensure that there is little waste.

Learning to eat together is a social skill and a way of ensuring belonging and engagement, which is another precursor to successful schooling.
Rosalind Scott
Director of partnership, Comberton Academy Trust, Comberton, Cambridgeshire