Government to 'raise standard and quality' of school dinners

The government has announced plans to raise the standard and quality of school dinners.

Speaking at the launch of Labour's campaign policy document on children, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said that Labour was "committed to raising the nutritional standard of school meals".

Mrs Kelly announced plans to introduce minimum standards on fat, sugar and salt content in dinners from September, to devote extra resources to build new kitchens and renew existing ones and to provide continuous training for school dinner ladies and catering staff to ensure that children receive the "best quality food".

The Education Secretary also announced plans for a School Meals Trust, which would help head teachers, parents and school governors to raise the standard of meals in their own schools. She also announced that education watchdog Ofsted would be granted new powers to inspect and report on the standard of school dinners.

Commenting on the new plans, Mrs Kelly said: "It is difficult to produce a high quality school meal for 37p. Many schools, of course, already spend more than that. All have the powers to do so. But we can confirm today that we will help them by making available more money for schools to raise the quality of school meals. We want every child, whose parents choose it, to enjoy a healthy, high quality school lunch."

However, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats criticised the scheme. Tory Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins was reported as calling them "pre-election gimmicks", a sentiment echoed by Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Phil Willis, who was reported as saying that the scheme was a "cheap election stunt" designed to hide the fact that, under Labour, children had been eating "the most appalling food".

The new campaign also included plans to tighten rules on advertising food products that are high in fat, sugar and salt to children; plans to further restrict the sale of cigarettes to under-sixteens and a national leasing scheme to provide more children with access to laptop computers, as well as tighter parental controls to make internet use safer.

Labour's General Election Co-ordinator Alan Milburn also announced plans to increase the Child Tax Credit at least in line with average earnings in order to reach the party's goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020. Mr Milburn accused the Conservatives of 'freezing' child benefit and increasing child poverty when they were in power and said: "It was children who suffered most when the Tories were last in government. It would be children who would be hit hardest if the Tories ever got back into government."


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