Published: 3 August, 2012
A STUDY by the highly-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies and National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has found that Islington Labour’s flagship Free School Meals for All policy improves children’s results at school.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies and NatCen report, published last week, revealed that offering universal free school meals increased attainment in primary schools in disadvantaged areas like Islington.
The research shows that pupils in Newham and Durham, two boroughs where the previous Labour government funded free school meals for all, made between four and eight weeks more progress over a two-year period than similar pupils in other areas, and the impact was more marked for children from less affluent families.
Not only does offering all primary schoolchildren a free nutritious meal at lunchtime improve their health and their family’s finances, but we now know it also improves their school results.
These highly respected organisations have shown that Free School Meals for All is a vital part of making our borough fairer.
We hope to see some effect on children’s achievement in Islington when our primary school results are published in September.
Free School Meals for All saves a family in low-paid work with two children in our primary schools almost £700 a year.
Islington Labour introduced free school meals at primary schools and council nurseries following the collapse of the Lib Dem administration in 2009 and, despite huge cuts from the Tory-led government, has maintained funding for this vital policy.
Every year since, Lib Dem councillors have voted to cut the scheme.
Embarrassingly for the Lib Dems, their alternative to Islington Labour’s free meals policy of simply offering a few more free school meals to the children than the Government was also assessed in the report and found to be of no benefit to children’s education.
At a time when we’re facing unprecedented cuts from the Conservative-led government, this study confirms the importance of offering free school meals for all our children.
I’m very sorry the local Lib Dems and Green Party opposed us despite all the evidence. Now we know Islington Labour’s policy is good for both children and families, they need to admit their mistake and support giving all children a decent meal at school.
CLLR RICHARD WATTS
Labour executive member for children and families