The benefits of the Government’s u-turn will be felt most in cities and large towns in the North of England and the Midlands where pupils are more likely to be disadvantaged.
The Government yesterday conceded to pressure to provide free school meals for children over the summer holidays. Councillors and campaigners including footballer Marcus Rashford succeeded in securing an extension of the emergency food vouchers that were in place over the Easter break for the summer holidays to help some of England’s poorest families.
This U-turn will be felt positively in cities and large towns across the country, particularly in places with large shares of young people eligible for free school meals. In places such as Liverpool, Hull and Birmingham over 23 per cent of students are eligible to receive free school meals. Whereas in places such as York, Aldershot and Reading, where less than 10 per cent of students are eligible, the effect will be less pronounced.
Children living in cities in the North of England and the Midlands are much more likely to be eligible for free school meals than those living in the Greater South East. All of the ten cities with the highest share of pupils eligible for free school meals are located in the North of England or the Midlands. Of the ten cities with the lowest shares of eligible pupils, nine are in the Greater South East.
Children in these cities outside of the GSE, particularly in the North of England and the Midlands, are also those who will have already been the worst affected by the recent school closures. Research by the NFER found that schools with the greatest reliance on FSM reported 13 percentage point lower levels of pupil engagement than average schools since lockdown has been in place.
Alongside this, a report last year by the EPI found that by the time they leave secondary school, disadvantaged pupils are now over 18.1 months behind non-disadvantaged pupils. The Government’s U-turn on this decision is therefore extremely welcome to avoid a double disadvantage further hampering children in these places.
The provision of free school meals over the summer holidays will be a weight off the minds of many parents, particularly outside of the Greater South East. To minimise the learning gap the pandemic has created between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers, the Government must now ensure this measure is coupled up with tailored support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds as part of the wider summer catch up plans that it has already pledged.
Leave a comment
Thanks for this and it represents help to the Midlands and North in particular. However this appears to be for this summer holiday only!? What system (if any ) should be considered for identifying and monitoring how such a scheme can be extended into the future?