Clegg: free school meals for primary pupils
Nick Clegg has announced every child in infant school will receive a free school lunch from next year, a move that will save families more than £400 per child a year.
The move, which is expected to benefit 1.5 million five, six and seven-year-olds a year, is designed to ease the financial pressure on hard-pressed families.
Extending free school meals for pupils in Year 1 and 2 beyond the poorest will cost the Government £600 million a year.
The announcement, ahead of Mr Clegg's curtain-closing speech at Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow yesterday, followed pilot schemes that found students getting a free dinner were academically months ahead of their peers.
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The policy is a trade for the Tories to announce a tax break for married couples.
The Lib Dem leader said: "My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day.
"Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze. Over the course of a year families spend over £400 lunch money for each child.
"I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families.
"We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits."
MPs in Devon and Cornwall have argued thousands of poor families in the region are missing out on free school meals they are entitled to as they claim other benefits – meaning they are ineligible for free meals – and because of a stigma associated with the hand-out.