2,700 schools need new kit or kitchen builds

The number of schools that need to make kitchen improvements to provide free meals to primary school pupils runs to more than 2,700, it was reported this week.

Figures obtained by the BBC under Freedom of Information laws said the work needed extends from the supply of single items of equipment, such as microwaves and dishwashers, to full-scale refurbishments.

It reckons that around one in three schools assessed so far needs some kind of work doing to be ready for the new laws coming into force this September.

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The Department for Education has provided funding for improvements and said it is offering support to schools. Some £150m has been allocated to financing kitchen refurbishment work and new equipment.

The BBC said that according to the most recent figures from January 2012, there are more than 16,800 state primary schools in England.

More than 1,700 schools have no kitchen at all. These will have hot meals delivered by external caterers, or cooked at neighbouring schools and transported in.

Some of the 152 local authorities who provided information said their funding allocation was adequate to make necessary improvements, while others said it fell short of estimated costs, according to the BBC.

Schools Minister David Laws told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “not complacent” about the problems, but said he was “yet to find a school that with the right support and advice cannot actually deal with these issues”.

He commented: “The anecdotal evidence and the noise that you tend to get will tend to be from what can sometimes be a small minority of schools, and I take their concerns seriously,” he said.

“But what you don’t hear about, and what I do hear about, is the vast majority of schools that are on track to deliver this.”

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