The SNP announcement that they are going to provide free meals for all kids in p1-3 has all the hallmarks of popular politics; to question it risks being portrayed as anti early intervention and taking food from wee kids mouths, but here goes;
It is argued that it helps bring calmer classrooms, that's one of the big claims of the Hull experience. But the afternoon too late, you've lost half the day by them. Free breakfasts would mean that effect would be achieved right away for much less money. In at least one school I know of in a difficult area, where over 80% of the children were persuaded and helped to take cheap breakfasts, that calming effect was achieved in the morning and lasted the day along with much improved attendance.
Its claimed that it removes stigma. A smart card system, as introduced in every high school in Edinburgh, removes stigma right away, means that those who need a free meal can get it and because the cost would be much less the level of incolme that qualifies for a free meal could be rasied. The smart card also gives you a tool that could that can be used for huge number of other educational and care purposes and avoids having to spend money on kids who do not need the service, giving more for those that really do need the support. Theologically its what I would call "a bias to the poor" which is a much better priority for a healthy society than feed dinners for the rich.
The suggestion is that it will help in the fight against obesity but what is the evidence that that is the case...and meals don't have to be free to be healthy or attractive.
It will cost a huge amount. That's why Hull stopped it. Given that we are already facing huge cuts in services, what will have to go to deliver this? Class sizes are growing, learning assistants have been cut, the cost of heating has gone through the roof, we have no money to pay for new school buildings, the list goes on, but somehow we are told that this is in the budget......once again its not our priorities any more, its central government; so much for devolving more power to local government then!
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