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Education Education

Introduce means testing for free school lunches for the first 3 years of primary school

Last updated: 01:08pm 3 September 2018

We do not believe that giving school lunches to all children free of charge for the first three years of primary school – regardless of the income of their parents – is a sensible use of public money. … So under a new Conservative government, schools in England will offer a free school breakfast to every child in every year of primary school, while children from low-income families will continue to receive free school lunches throughout their years in primary and secondary education.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.51

Our verdict

This is a pledge to counter a policy introduced back in 2014 by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government: free school lunches to all state school pupils in their first three years of primary education. As you can see from the manifesto extract above, the Conservative Party said they no longer thought it was sensible to provide free school lunches for every child regardless, and would instead only provide free school lunches only to those from low-income families. This was also accompanied by a promise to provide free school breakfasts to every child in primary school (covered by this policy).

During the 2017 general election campaign, this policy came under heavy criticism from chef and school food campaigner Jamie Oliver, as well as from teachers’ unions and the Labour Party.

Following the election, the government officially abandoned its plans. On 24 July 2017, Robert Goodwill, then children’s minister, said:

“As announced by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System on 4 July we will not be pursuing universal breakfasts for primary school children and we will be retaining the existing provision for universal infant free school meals.”

Given the government has officially abandoned this policy, we’ve classified it as ‘broken’.

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