LUNCHTIME was better than ever for pupils starting the new school term at Mountford Manor Primary School after a full refurbishment of the kitchen.

During the summer the school’s kitchen was given a refurbishment in order to meet the increased demand for school dinners after the Government’s Universal Free School Meals policy came into effect at the start of the new term.

At the end of April, Mountford Manor Primary School were awarded Academy Capital Maintenance Funding (ACMF) of £60,508 by the Education Funding Agency to make the necessary improvements.

The former kitchen had not seen a refurb since it was installed in the 1950s, and the upgrade meant that head chef Allison Johnson and her team can provide even better quality meals as well as feed more children.

She said: “It’s absolutely fantastic, I’m over the moon with it.

“The original kitchen was installed in 1958 and we were still using the old equipment, but now the meals are tastier because the equipment is better and everything is timed to a T.

“We are now providing 161 meals and that’s not just for Mountford but for Nylands school as well.

“The increase in the number of meals hasn’t really bothered us. We just get on with it really.”

Last September the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that all children in Years 1, 2 and Reception class around the country would be entitled to receive free school meals from this September.

It could mean that parents save £400 a year for each child, as well as giving youngsters the nutrition they need to develop their learning.

Rachel Skates, headteacher at the school, said: “I think it’s a great idea. Anything we can do to make sure the children have nutritious food, and it also alleviates the pressure from parents too.

“Having nutritious food means that children can have a hot meal and it helps them to concentrate in the afternoon.”

Many of the children at Mountford were also making the most of the new scheme, tucking into their free school dinners.

Ruby Scott, who is in Year 2, said she enjoyed eating school meals and her favourite was having a jacket potato for lunch.

The six-year-old said: “I sometimes have school meals but not all the time and I do quite enjoy them. My favourite is having a jacket potato with beans because it’s really nice and tasty.

“It’s good we can have school dinner because it means you don’t get hungry in the afternoon.”

Liz Matthews, Project Manager for the White Horse Federation, of which Mountford Manor is part of, said: “The funding has meant that the kitchens are now using state of the art equipment. Wall to wall stainless steel and anti slip flooring has been installed by local contractors. Gone are the antiquated sterilising sinks, now a new dish washer and prep area takes its place. New steamers and ovens have also been installed to improve the efficiency. The whole kitchen has been repainted and looks fabulous. We have also purchased much needed new tables and clearing stations to improve the experience for the children too.

“Local contractor RCM Catering pulled out all the stops working weekends and evenings to get the kitchen ready in time to start the new year, and I know the catering staff were so excited to now work in a fresh, efficient cooking environment.”

Of the 57 primary schools in Swindon, 33 come under the responsibility of Swindon Council and all but one are ready for the implementation of the new policy in September.

Swindon Council received a £390,000 grant from the government to support schools to make any necessary changes, which have mainly involved supplying new furniture, cutlery, crockery and kitchen implements.

Schools have also had to contribute toward five per cent of the cost of the preparation, but this is less than the 20 per cent originally estimated.