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Should school meals be free for everyone?

RT4038

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Would that not be a matter of personal choice, nobody is forcing it?
Generally speaking, the payment of tax is compulsory, so there is an element of 'forcing' ? Unless you are suggesting that the additional tax for the provision of school meals is going to be voluntary, if you are going to provide said meal yourself?
 
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Yew

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Generally speaking, the payment of tax is compulsory, so there is an element of 'forcing' ? Unless you are suggesting that the additional tax for the provision of school meals is going to be voluntary, if you are going to provide said meal yourself?
The provision of a pcked lunch is something they have chosen to do, despite knowing that free ones (in this hypothetical) are available.
 

deltic

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I don't think the meals will cost anywhere near £2.75 each - most meals I make for myself cost me less than £2.50 and that's without the economies of scale that will be involved - not to mention that children will be eating significantly smaller portions. Furthermore £5.3bn is absolutely tiny in terms of government spending and the benefits would likely contribute more than that to the economy within a generation.
Edit : sorry, just realised @najaB made the same point
You don't have to pay someone to cook and serve those meals. From memory £2.75 is the cost we are charged by our catering company for the basic school meal of the day. Teenage portions are the same as adults.

Not saying £5bn is good value for money or not was just challenging the original £2bn estimate.
 

RT4038

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The provision of a pcked lunch is something they have chosen to do, despite knowing that free ones (in this hypothetical) are available.
Which is the nub of the point: Don't want the Government food, so don't want to pay for it. Why pay twice?
 

najaB

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From news reports I've seen it now appears that schools require specific clothing which has the school logo on it. The cost of purchase being far more than with the old rules.
Yes, this is common. And while it does contribute to the school looking good, it can easily cost hundreds of pounds a year since kids either outgrow the clothes or lose their jumpers/jackets. My sister-in-law is a school administrator, and at the end of every year she has dozens of items of branded clothing that have lost their owners.

The ones that can be salvaged she'll wash and make available to parents who would otherwise struggle to buy new.

I don't want to keep harping on about the system elsewhere, but it's what I grew up with. Primary schools had uniforms based on colour of the shirt/blouse/dress, and for most secondary schools it was either grey, khaki or blue shorts/dresses and white shirts with specific socks or epaulettes in forms 1-3 and then grey or blue trousers/skirts and white shirts in forms 4-6 with a school tie (with a few exceptions).

This mean that you could buy the shorts/trousers/dresses and shirts pretty much anywhere and only had to buy the socks, tie or epaulette from the school.
Which is the nub of the point: Don't want the Government food, so don't want to pay for it. Why pay twice?
Because your child's meal then goes on to pay for a meal for a child whose parent can't afford it.
 

RT4038

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Because your child's meal then goes on to pay for a meal for a child whose parent can't afford it.
No, it is a coercion to get my child to eat the Government food, or else get me to pay twice. For the child whose parent can't afford it, that is what the existing free meals scheme is for. So why nanny into this free system, interfering into everybody's life?

Should they be educated for free or get free healthcare?
As with everything, you have to draw a line somewhere and it's position is all that we are really arguing about.
 

DynamicSpirit

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As with everything, you have to draw a line somewhere and it's position is all that we are really arguing about.

That is true, and I think very perceptive. We are simply arguing about where you draw the line between what should be free and what should be the responsibility of parents to provide. The other thing is that, even though you have to draw the line somewhere, you'll always find that wherever you draw it, there are going to be fuzzy difficult cases that someone is going to argue are unfair, and which you are going to have to put up with (case in point: If you provide free school meals for all and ensure there's a reasonable choice, you're still going to have a few kids who for whatever reason can't/won't eat the school-provided food, leading to arguments about whatever special provision people think they should have). I suspect that trying to resolve those fuzzy cases is one reason why we have a long term trend towards people expecting more and more things to be provided free by the Government: It's politically easier to say, 'OK, to satisfy these concerns, we'll just give everyone Y as well' than it is to point out the fundamental truth that life is never completely fair and it's pointless to pretend otherwise.

Nevertheless, despite all that, I do think that the benefits for drawing the line so as to make school meals free for all far outweigh the disbenefits.
 

najaB

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So why nanny into this free system, interfering into everybody's life?
Because there are a lot of people who either won't know that they're entitled to, or won't know or be able to claim it.
 

RT4038

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Because there are a lot of people who either won't know that they're entitled to, or won't know or be able to claim it.
There will always be the less capable people in life, but there is no need or justification to nanny everybody else because of them.

I suspect that trying to resolve those fuzzy cases is one reason why we have a long term trend towards people expecting more and more things to be provided free by the Government: It's politically easier to say, 'OK, to satisfy these concerns, we'll just give everyone Y as well' than it is to point out the fundamental truth that life is never completely fair and it's pointless to pretend otherwise.
Rolling back this long term trend was the policy of Margaret Thatcher - dismantling the 'one size fits all' Government product, more personal responsibility and, as a by product, exposing more of the fundamental truth as you put it.
 

DustyBin

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There will always be the less capable people in life, but there is no need or justification to nanny everybody else because of them.


Rolling back this long term trend was the policy of Margaret Thatcher - dismantling the 'one size fits all' Government product, more personal responsibility and, as a by product, exposing more of the fundamental truth as you put it.

I agree with your sentiment, however I'm with @DynamicSpirit on this; i.e. the the benefits far outweigh the harms. I think it really does come down to where you draw the line though.
 

SteveM70

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If you provide free school meals for all and ensure there's a reasonable choice, you're still going to have a few kids who for whatever reason can't/won't eat the school-provided food, leading to arguments about whatever special provision people think they should have

Given almost a quarter of school kids are eligible for free school meals, this must already be happening. Special provision (medical conditions, religious observance etc) isn’t the preserve of the wealthier. Or maybe they’re more likely to complain?
 

Bayum

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Key Stage 1 (4-6/7y/o) are already in receipt of ‘free’ school lunches. Those who receive pupil premium, looked after or service child funding receive free school meals throughout. Generally, this is well taken up and the majority of KS1 are on hot dinners.

In my view, all children should be entitled to a reduced cost/free school lunch. We have so many children who are living on the breadline but just miss the threshold because both parents are working two jobs. A heavily subsidised scheme would work for all parents here.

Given there are about 10.6m children at school and the average cost to produce a school meal is somewhere around £2.75, for 180 days a year the cost comes out at about £5.3bn. And given the Marcus Rashford arguments - if you going to provide free school meals what about school holidays?
Because of Rashford, many supermarket cafes and schemes now exist where children either eat free, or schools are given packages/tickets to give to those pupils that are on free school meals.
 

yorkie

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Not really to do with school meals, bit "branded" school uniforms and clothing seems to be a thing now.
When I went to school there were rules on the colours of clothing worn and the school supplied a badge that could be sewn on the blazer but that was it.
From news reports I've seen it now appears that schools require specific clothing which has the school logo on it. The cost of purchase being far more than with the old rules.
Do you know roughly how much more?

I don't know how far back you are going, but I suspect you'll find that some schools would be cheaper than 30, 40 years ago in real terms as a proportion of available income, whereas at others it will be higher. This is because such products are generally cheaper than they used to be, however some schools try to discourage poorer families by requiring blazers.
I had a look at the website at a school in York and estimated the cost at about £140 for a child starting secondary school, however pupils entitled to free school meals would get £90 off that. (I based this on 2 pairs of most things, but 1 PE kit and 1 tie).

However I then compared this to a well-known elitist school in York, Fulford School, who have rightly got a lot of bad publicy over uniform policy; I found that the cost was significantly higher and I saw no mention of vouchers on their website (maybe I missed it).

It's well known that some schools use uniform policy as a way to deter poorer families from applying for places at their schools.

PARENTS have hit out after a York secondary school unveiled plans to change its pupils’ uniforms, including replacing sweatshirts with blazers.
I play football with someone whose daughter attends that school; his view on the headteacher named in the article, who is now the CEO of the Trust containing that school, is not reproducable here!

So I think the answer is very much "it depends" on the policies of the school. It also wouldn't surprise me if certain schools resisted free school meals for a similar reason, though they'd never admit it, of course.
 

westv

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Do you know roughly how much more?

I don't know how far back you are going, but I suspect you'll find that some schools would be cheaper than 30, 40 years ago in real terms as a proportion of available income, whereas at others it will be higher. This is because such products are generally cheaper than they used to be, however some schools try to discourage poorer families by requiring blazers.

I thought blazers were the norm for seconday schools. I might be wrong though as I don't have any children.

Anyway, surely a clothing item which is "branded" and only available in a select number of shops will cost more than what is effectively the same item but buyable anywhere?

Edit: A very quick scan shows the local school blazer sells for £28. A similar one in Asda £14.
 
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AM9

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Would that not be a matter of personal choice, nobody is forcing it?
Exactly, - it sound more of a judgemental view that 'they don't want/need it so why should they pay for others to have it. Maybe that's the poster's view.
 

Richard Scott

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Late to this one so not read all the way through.
Absolutely not, school and education budgets tight enough as they are. Money will have to come from somewhere. Already pupils waste a lot of food even when they pay for it, hate to think of waste if they didn't. And yes, those are observations with my own eyes.
There are plenty of families who don't need their children's meal paid for as they can easily afford it.
 

E27007

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Free School Dinner Meals? Yes Yes Yes and breakfast and free uniforms too.
What is the cost per child of a school breakfast or dinner when the food is bought in lorry -load bulk? Not very much, similarly a school uniform blazer when the school goes to a supplier and bulk orders blazers by the thousand, again per child, again not very much.
In Britain we are guilty of of only doing half of the job, "it costs too much" is a weak excuse, when it was time to defeat Hitler, no-one quibbled about the cost of fuel for the RAF bombers, we went out and did the job, no half-measures , we went out and did it!
 

DynamicSpirit

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Free School Dinner Meals? Yes, and breakfast and free uniforms too.
What is the cost per child of a school breakfast or dinner when the food is bought in lorry -load bulk? Not very much, similarly a school uniform blazer when the school goes to a supplier and bulk orders blazers by the thousand, again per child, again not very much.
In Britain we are guilty of of only doing half of the job, "it costs too much" is a weak excuse, when it was time to defeat Hitler, no-one quibbled about the cost of fuel for the RAF bombers, we went out and did the job, no half-measures , we went out and did it!

To be fair, we may well have just - out of necessity - got on with it in WWII, but it did leave our economy in dire straits, from which it took many years to recover, even helped by a large loan from the USA. Rationing persisted into the 1950s, as did much poverty, housing shortages, etc. You can't just spend freely and not expect consequences down the line.
 

E27007

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If schoolchildren are fed and clothed by the school , while attending school, and the school is enjoying significant economies of scale in purchasing in bulk, then that leaves the parents with the money in their pockets they would otherwise have parted with to pay for food and uniforms, describes a like Win Win Win outcome for all parties to me.
To be fair, we may well have just - out of necessity - got on with it in WWII, but it did leave our economy in dire straits, from which it took many years to recover, even helped by a large loan from the USA. Rationing persisted into the 1950s, as did much poverty, housing shortages, etc. You can't just spend freely and not expect consequences down the line.
If schoolchildren are fed and clothed by the school , while attending school, and the school is enjoying significant economies of scale in bulk purchasing of food and uniforms, then the parents have more money, and, the children have their food and uniforms, describes a Win Win Win outcome for all parties to me.
 

DustyBin

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Late to this one so not read all the way through.
Absolutely not, school and education budgets tight enough as they are. Money will have to come from somewhere. Already pupils waste a lot of food even when they pay for it, hate to think of waste if they didn't. And yes, those are observations with my own eyes.
There are plenty of families who don't need their children's meal paid for as they can easily afford it.

I actually surprised myself by concluding that they should, having considered the points raised. The most compelling argument in favour (to me anyway) is that some children aren't receiving them when they should, which obviously has potential health implications. Can more be done to avoid this, without making free meals universal?
 

Jamiescott1

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If schoolchildren are fed and clothed by the school , while attending school, and the school is enjoying significant economies of scale in bulk purchasing of food and uniforms, then the parents have more money, and, the children have their food and uniforms, describes a Win Win Win outcome for all parties to me.
Theres very fre economies of scale at moment.
I spend about £80k a year on fruit and veg in my job. No wholesalers can give me better prices than the supermarkets
 

Richard Scott

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I actually surprised myself by concluding that they should, having considered the points raised. The most compelling argument in favour (to me anyway) is that some children aren't receiving them when they should, which obviously has potential health implications. Can more be done to avoid this, without making free meals universal?
To be honest free school meals are available to all those who need them and, in reality, many don't bother through choice (not saying a majority here but there are a significant number). Making it free for everyone would, in my opinion, benefit none of the children and just adds cost.
These things have to be paid for and the money just isn't there. I know many on this forum will say government should find it but if they found money for every initiative proposed on this forum it would add up to a significant cost.
The reality is schemes like this just line someone's pocket and waste money. May sound harsh but that is what will happen.
 

najaB

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Theres very fre economies of scale at moment.
I spend about £80k a year on fruit and veg in my job. No wholesalers can give me better prices than the supermarkets
Under this scenario the government would be buying so much (on the order of several billions per year) that they could almost be better off just buying the farms.
To be honest free school meals are available to all those who need them and, in reality, many don't bother through choice (not saying a majority here but there are a significant number). Making it free for everyone would, in my opinion, benefit none of the children and just adds cost.
But how much of that is through not knowing that they are eligible, or not knowing how to claim. Plus, as noted above, there's a sizeable population of children whose parents are earning just enough to not be eligible, but not enough to regularly provide nutritious meals.
These things have to be paid for and the money just isn't there. I know many on this forum will say government should find it but if they found money for every initiative proposed on this forum it would add up to a significant cost.
A very generous estimate put the cost at less than half of one percent of government spending. In reality, it would likely be closer to a tenth of a percent.
 
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yorkie

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I thought blazers were the norm for seconday schools. I might be wrong though as I don't have any children.

Anyway, surely a clothing item which is "branded" and only available in a select number of shops will cost more than what is effectively the same item but buyable anywhere?
Schools with sensible uniform policies do not stipulate blazers.

The schools that require blazers do so because they are trying to deter poorer families from choosing that school, in my opinion, though they'd never admit it.

Suggesting that schools allow the use of jumpers or blazers of a particular colour is going to be problematic; the issue is not with the logo, and in any case any sensible school will be offering vouchers to kids entitled to FSM, plus any sensible school will have a facility for recycling second hand uniform.
Edit: A very quick scan shows the local school blazer sells for £28. A similar one in Asda £14.
A £14 blazer is unlikely to be any good or last long but there is no reason for schools to require blazers, when jumpers will do.

.... The most compelling argument in favour (to me anyway) is that some children aren't receiving them when they should, which obviously has potential health implications. Can more be done to avoid this, without making free meals universal?
I'm not sure if we're talking about eligible people not applying or kids not taking up the offer; if the latter, well some kids don't want to eat much and would rather not give up play time to sit down and eat lunch. You can gently encourage, but you can't force them.
 

gswindale

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Our child is currently in Reception and hence entitled to free school meals. Therefore he he has them.

What I would mention, which I don't think I've seen here yet is that each term we seem to get an email from the head teacher stating that some of their funding is based on the number of children having school dinners and a certain day is "census" day. On that day, they would like as many children to have school dinners as possible to ensure funding levels are maintained. Children can still take in a packed lunch even if registered for a school dinner that day and I know some kids have actually had both a packed lunch and a school dinner on some occasions.

Knowing the menu choices and the cost (the app says we get upto £3 per day, but most meals seem to be priced ar £2.40), I suspect that once he leaves KS1, then we may opt for the packed lunch option, although I would give him the choice.

As to whether school meals should be free for all, I think I would support free school meals for all primary school children, but not necessarily for secondary schools as by that age, they can be starting to have influence over their meal choices and can suggest picking up half a dozen bananas or some oranges in the shopping instead of dairy milk based on personal preferences and their knowledge from school.

Schools with sensible uniform policies do not stipulate blazers.

The schools that require blazers do so because they are trying to deter poorer families from choosing that school, in my opinion, though they'd never admit it.

Suggesting that schools allow the use of jumpers or blazers of a particular colour is going to be problematic; the issue is not with the logo, and in any case any sensible school will be offering vouchers to kids entitled to FSM, plus any sensible school will have a facility for recycling second hand uniform.

A £14 blazer is unlikely to be any good or last long but there is no reason for schools to require blazers, when jumpers will do.
My secondary school had blazers (brought in with our year group in 91). I seem to recall that the only items you had to buy from the "school uniform shop" was the tie and a badge to be sewn onto the blazer, so jumpers, shirts, trousers etc could be bought at BhS or M&S. I can't remember specifics about PE other than it was a red rugby shirt and black shorts for outside and white everything for indoors (unless your parents washed it all together and you ended up with a pink indoor kit!)

At our current school, the preference is to have a logo on the sweatshirt, but it isn't compulsory. I also note that on the M&S website, that the price of the uniform remains the same regardless of the size and a branded sweatshirt is £1 more than a plain one sized 11-12 years old,however for another school, it seems the branded stuff is actually cheaper than the plain.
 
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Bevan Price

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I have no problem paying more taxes for things that will have an obvious benefit to society as a whole. It's when taxes rise and the public services appear to be decreasing in value and quality that I would start getting concerned about the amount of spending on "free" things.
The problem is that central government will put the responsibility to pay onto local councils - but continue to "rob" those councils of funding. But councils are already struggling to fund services - what else would they need to cut to pay for free school meals ? My local council (St. Helens) has just had to close almost half of its public libraries, for example.
 

najaB

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As to whether school meals should be free for all, I think I would support free school meals for all primary school children, but not necessarily for secondary schools as by that age, they can be starting to have influence over their meal choices and can suggest picking up half a dozen bananas or some oranges in the shopping instead of dairy milk based on personal preferences and their knowledge from school.
I agree with that, though I would definitely want to make it as easy as possible for secondary school students to get assistance with meals with no fuss or hassle.
 

westv

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Schools with sensible uniform policies do not stipulate blazers.

The schools that require blazers do so because they are trying to deter poorer families from choosing that school, in my opinion, though they'd never admit it.

Suggesting that schools allow the use of jumpers or blazers of a particular colour is going to be problematic; the issue is not with the logo, and in any case any sensible school will be offering vouchers to kids entitled to FSM, plus any sensible school will have a facility for recycling second hand uniform.

A £14 blazer is unlikely to be any good or last long but there is no reason for schools to require blazers, when jumpers will do.
I'm not sure I agree. Blazers were the thing on my experience in 70s London and I don't recall it being any sort of issue.
Don't the majority of schools have a blazer policy anyway? And why a colour being a problem?
I would imagine a jumper would wear out quicker than a cheap blazer.
 

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