Henry Dimbleby on the implementation of his ‘free’ school meals for all idea, the School Food Plan:
My co-author, John Vincent, and I visited more than 60 schools while writing the plan and saw what a huge difference extending free school meals can make.
“Our children did better in exams,” one County Durham head told us. “At the same time, the culture in the school improved in subtle but important ways.
It’s been great to avoid the old them-and-us divisions of the packed lunch kids going off to eat separately from the school lunch children.”
But it’s really all about educational achievement, I’m sure…
This is the rarest of things: a political idea that has true cross-party support. A Labour idea – it was Ed Balls who commissioned the pilot schemes – taken up by the Tories. Michael Gove commissioned the School Food Plan and trenchantly supported our recommendation for universal free meals. The Lib Dems succeeded in getting the budget agreed.
Which only goes to show, I suppose, just how little the three main parties differ at heart, doesn’t it?
Not one of them seems to think that the benefits of this might not actually be worth the costs of implementation or the precedent that will be set by it.
Because it’s not going to stop. They are already looking to increase it. Of course:
With such broad support, there is a good chance it might even be extended. There are already discussions going on about providing free meals for children all through primary school.
This policy has the potential to transform the culture of our primary schools and the lives of our children in a way that only those who have seen it in action can truly appreciate.
As one child at Sheringham primary in Newham put it: “There used to be a lot more fights. Everyone gets on now because we all sit together and eat together.”
Here we have the dreaded ‘policy by anecdote’ that is so often decried by the left (until they want to use that very same tactic).
Still, someone’s doing well out of it. What, you thought this was just for the benefit of the kiddies?
Headteachers are not expected to manage all this on their own. The government is tendering for experts to go into schools and help them.
Ahhh, ‘experts’. Is there nothing they can’t do?