Conservatives to End Universal Infant Free School Meals

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 7 min read

The Conservative party manifesto unveiled at the end of last week, announced plans to remove the Universal Infant Free School Meal programme. It’s the flag-ship policy introduced by the Lib Dems during the coalition, and is now being taken away to be replaced by free breakfasts instead.

Conservative manifesto

In its election manifesto, the Conservative party said:

“We do not believe that giving school lunches to all children free of charge for the first three years of primary school – regardless of the income of their parents – is a sensible use of public money.”

Currently, the benefit is given to key stage 1 students of primary schools. Instead, the Conservatives plan to introduce free breakfasts, available to all primary school children, not just those in key stage 1.

It argued:

“There is now good evidence that school breakfasts are at least as effective in helping children to make progress in school.”

The conservative party argue that the same important service Universal Infant Free School Meals provide, can be achieved through free breakfasts, but at a fraction of the cost. The money saved can be fed into other parts of school budgets.

Funding increase

In fact, the conservative manifesto promised to increase the overall school budget by £4 billion by 2022. The National Association of Head Teachers however said that:

“£4 billion over five years is short of what is needed.”

It would mark an improvement over the current situation, but Labour and the Lib Dems have both promised far more in terms of Education Funding, realistic or not.

And the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, Sarah Olney, said the decision to take away Universal Infant Free School Meals will make Theresa May go down in history as the “lunch snatcher”. She said:

“Children under Theresa May will go hungry: it is that stark, and that heartless. But she just doesn’t care.”

A tad harsh assessment you might argue. Children in key stage 1 who qualify for Free School Meals will still be catered to, and now, children from all years in primary school will be entitled to a free breakfast.

All the major parties have now unveiled their election manifestos. There can be no complaints this time that all the parties are just the same. On a range of topics, they differ vastly. In education specifically, Labour and Lib Dems both promise to expand Free School Meals, while the Conservatives are giving the policy re-thought.