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Free school meals: London council first in England to offer to age 16

children at a london primary school

Children up to the age of 16 will get a free school meal in Tower Hamlets (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

A council has become the first in the country to promise all children from Reception to Year 11 a free school meal every day.

Tower Hamlets in east London has made the landmark move to extend the free school meals policy to secondary school children. 

The council has been giving out meals to primary school children at no cost since 2014.

The move means every child in a Tower Hamlets school will receive a free lunch up until the age of 16, regardless of their family’s household income.

Lutfur Rahman, mayor of the council, said: ‘We are proud to be investing in our young people by funding universal free school meals for all primary and secondary children.

‘A high-quality universal offer improves health and educational outcomes, while reducing inequalities and saving families money.’

The programme will cost £5.7 million and was recently approved as part of the council’s 2023 to 2024 budget.

Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, has introduced the policy (Picture: PA)

Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, has introduced the policy (Picture: PA)

PABest Mayor of London Sadiq Khan talks to the media during a visit to a Hope Hack event to explore and discuss innovative solutions to societal challenges such as poverty, education, racism and the cost-of-living crisis, with 250 young people who use the Mayor's Violence Reduction Unit programmes, at London Stadium, east London. Picture date: Thursday February 16, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Khan. Photo credit should read: James Manning/PA Wire

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan confirmed extra funding across primary schools last month (Picture: PA)

The mayor of London confirmed free school meals would be extended to every child of primary age in a one-off £130 million programme. 

The scheme will come into effect from September and be offered across the capital for one year. 

It will be funded by additional business rates income and should help an estimated 270,000 children, saving families £440 per child. 

Mr Khan said at the time he was ‘stepping forward’ after years of Government inaction.

‘The cost of living crisis means families and children across our city are in desperate need of additional support,’ he said.

‘I have repeatedly urged the Government to provide free school meals to help already stretched families, but they have simply failed to act.

‘This is why I’m stepping forward with an emergency £130 million scheme that will ensure every single primary pupil in the capital receives free school meals.

‘This will save families hundreds of pounds over the year, ensuring parents aren’t worrying about how they’re going to feed their children.’

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