Primary schools across the UK are in a race to improve their catering facilities ahead of the ‘free school meals’ scheme launched this September — but it’s becoming evident that some areas of the country face more of an uphill battle than others.
Earlier this month, schools minister David Laws revealed that the government had allocated £150m to helping schools upgrade their kitchens in time.
But it would appear that in some cases funds from the central pot won’t be enough.
A BBC report claims that in Essex, less than 5% of primary schools have “adequate” facilities to cook enough dinners for their infant-aged pupils.
That means 95% of schools still have to carry out work or purchase new items of equipment over the next six months.
The report said that the expected cost of getting all kitchens ready is £4.7m — a figure that is some £1.6m more than the £3.1m that has been granted to Essex County Council.
The data, which was released by Essex County Council after a Freedom of Information request, show just 15 of 343 schools have “adequate” facilities to cater for all infant-aged pupils.
Despite this, the council said it was “confident” most sites would be ready.
Ray Gooding, cabinet member for schools on the county council, said: “Clearly we would always have liked more money, we would always like more money for everything. But that [the gap between Government funding and the expected costs] is largely being filled by the schools’ own funds and we are doing extra to help where it is needed.”