17/09/2013

Call To Extend Free School Meals

Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Chris Hazzard has called for free school meals to be extended for all children attending school.

Speaking in the Assembly, Mr Hazzard said: "In recent years Sinn Féin has worked to increase the number of children entitled to free school meals and indeed the Minister John O'Dowd recently announced that the criteria for attaining free school meals would be standardised across primary and post primary schools.

"This would mean that children entitled to free school meals in primary would carry that entitlement into post primary school.

"Many children were going to school without a proper lunch due to families being unable to either supply a packed lunch or pay for school meals. It is important that children are able to have a healthy meal during their time at school.

"While welcoming the Minister's commitment to date on the issue I am asking him to investigate extending the free school meal system to all children attending school. This would bring equality to the system and ensure that every child would get at least one substantial meal during term time."

On Monday, Education Minister, John O'Dowd, called on all families entitled to free school meals to take up their entitlement.

The Minister was speaking during a debate on free school meal uptake in the Assembly. During the debate, he revealed that almost one in five children who are eligible for free school meals do not avail of them.

He added: "The significance of free school meals must be seen in the context of my Department's overarching goals – 'to raise standards' and 'close the performance gap, increase access and equality'.

"Free school meals support the Programme for Government commitment to tackle disadvantage and close the gap in educational attainment between the least and most deprived communities.

"The particular challenges faced by pupils from lower income backgrounds in accessing, participating in and benefiting from, formal education are well documented and we should not underestimate the impact this can have on children's learning and development, on their educational attainment and ultimately on their lifetime opportunities."

(JP/CD)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

07 September 2021
Other News In Brief
Schools Need Support To Remain Open Safely - Sheehan Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has said Thursday's recall of the Assembly is an opportunity to make it clear to the Education Minister that schools need support to remain open safely.
21 September 2021
Health Minister Welcomes Progress On Organ Donation Bill
The Executive has agreed to the motion for the proposed changes to NI's organ donation rules. Welcome the progress of his Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, Health Minister Robin Swann said: "Today is another positive step forward in what has been a long journey for all involved in the organ donation process.
21 September 2021
Folic Acid To Be Added To Flour
Folic acid to be added to flour to help prevent life-threatening spinal conditions in babies, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced. The Northern Ireland Executive in line with the rest of the UK, has agreed that folic acid should be added to non-wholemeal wheat flour.
21 September 2021
Progress Of NI's Vaccination Programme Welcomed
The Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the continued progress in NI's vaccination programme. The Jabbathon student jab initiative continues with walk-in clinics at university and FE college campuses. Vaccines are also to be provided at the Balmoral Show, with a walk-in clinic running every day.