Number of schoolchildren receiving free school meals triples

In the last decade, children receiving free school meals has shot up to 53.5%.

The number of primary school pupils receiving free school meals has tripled in the last decade, new figures reveal.

More than half of primary-aged pupils were registered for free school meals last year, increasing from 16.7% in 2009 to 53.5%.

Secondary pupils on free school meals now make up 15% of the total number, an increase from 12.3% in 2009.

The government’s policy to extend free school meals for pupils between P1 and P3 saw a rise from 77,791 registered children to 213,199 when it was introduced in 2015.

P1, P2 and P3 pupils accounted for 169,931 of the 260,842 eligible children in 2019, according to the figures.

Analysis of the Scottish Parliament Information Centre figures by the SNP found that on average, free school meals save a family £452.20 per child, based on the £2.38 average price of a paid-for school meal.

Those eligible for receiving free school meals include pupils from families on benefits, including Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits.

SNP MSP Clare Adamson said: “Free school meals are an important part of ensuring that every child gets the best start in life.

“Guaranteeing our youngest pupils a healthy meal during the school day helps them to learn – but it’s also a huge financial help to working families.

“This policy has been a huge relief for many families at a time where household budgets are tight – saving parents over £450 a year for each child.

“The evidence is clear that free school meals can help close the attainment gap in education, and that’s why this SNP Government has put this policy at the heart of our ambition to build a better Scotland.

“There’s still a lot to do in reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland – but universal benefits like free school meals for our youngest pupils, free prescriptions and free higher education are helping keep more money in the pockets of hard-working families.”

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