THE Government has announced funding will be made available to Swindon Council so it can roll out hot meals for all children in Years 1 and 2.
Last September, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that all children in these year groups should have access to a hot meal by the start of the next academic year.
It was recently announced the council would receive £360,000 which will now be used to pay for providing the facilities at all council-run primary schools.
A project team has been set up to analyse the needs of each school, which will include ensuring there is space for meals to be eaten and equipment, such as cookers and fridges.
Schools who need equipment will be required to put forward their requests but headteachers are being encouraged to work together to provide meals. This may involve one school cooking the meal and then transporting it to another.
While work still needs to be done to ensure everything is in place, the council is confident every child will have access to a hot meal.
Coun Fionuala Foley (Con, Chiseldon and Lawn), the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are working hard to make sure that the Government’s aim to give all parents the choice of a hot school meal for their child will be in place from September.
“We have been given £360,000 funding to do this which will be allocated between 35 schools, depending on the level of work that needs to be done. “Large-scale work will not be needed in any schools as far as we can see, but some may need new or more equipment, such as cookers and fridges.
“We have also set up a project team to advise schools how best to work together, so that they can buy services jointly to reduce costs, or copy some arrangements that already exist where some schools supply hot meals to pupils in other schools as well as their own.”
It is not yet known precisely what the uptake in Swindon will be, but the Government estimates somewhere in the region of 85 per cent of all children will take up the offer.
The council is also anticipating the regulation might be extended to pupils in Years 3, 4 and 5 at a later date so this is also being taken into account.
The team set up to look at the needs of schools will be working closely with catering staff and bursurs before a full report is submitted next month.