Clegg’s Big School Meals Idea Meets Cold, Hard Reality…

…no surprise which wins, is it?

Come September, children at Mudeford infants school in Dorset are not going to be getting hot school dinners. They’ll be eating sandwiches.

Not cake, then..?

Somewhere along the troubled history of the coalition’s policy to give all infant children a free school meal, the requirement for food to be hot quietly disappeared, to the relief of some headteachers.

Well, finally, someone saw sense. Not a lot of sense, admittedly, since we are talking about the Lib Dems here.

According to Liberal Democrat peer Lord Ashdown, up to 10% of schools will not be able to deliver universal free school meals by September, and so will be breaking the law.

The evidence that heads are using money intended for children’s education to pay for dinners has escalated a poisonous feud that’s been brewing at the heart of the coalition since Conservative critics first alleged that the Lib Dems’ policy was underfunded and poorly planned.

Last week it was reported to be on a “red flag” list of policies likely to fail.

It could have been put there at the start of this total car-crash, couldn’t it?

11 comments for “Clegg’s Big School Meals Idea Meets Cold, Hard Reality…

  1. Jim
    May 28, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Did anyone ask the kids if they wanted a plate of congealed fat and some boiled cabbage? Some of the worst memories I have of my primary school days (which overall were very happy) is being forced to eat food that I couldn’t abide for school dinners. And the teachers (little Hitlers they were then too) took great pleasure in trying to make you eat it too. They used to make you sit in front of the plate and not go out for play time if you wouldn’t eat it. However they hadn’t counted on the sheer bloody mindedness of me and another kid who would happily sit there for the entire break, staring a a plate of some muck, at which point we’d be allowed to go back to lessons.

    The concept of being able to have a packed lunch from home would have been heaven. I bet the teachers regard the whole thing with horror now – kids are far more coddled with what they will eat nowadays, and what they won’t, and I’m sure teachers don’t want to have to try and make them eat an institutional meal prepared in a factory miles away and hours previously.

    • mikebravo
      May 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Any poor teacher tasked with getting Chardonnay or Tyrone to eat what they didn’t want would first be battered by this weeks father before being charged by plod with child abuse.

      • June 7, 2014 at 7:58 am


  2. Radders
    May 28, 2014 at 11:06 am

    One of my contractors did a lot of work in London on school kitchens. The story goes like this;

    1. Budgets devolved from LEAs to schools. This prevented cross-subsidisation of the meals service, i.e. where the LEA subsidised small less economic primaries from savings from large ones. It’s down to labour costs; you need two or three staff even in the smallest kitchen to produce meals. The same number of staff can produce 60 meals a day or 300. There are few time savings; 30 puds take as long to cook in a combi oven as 300 do.
    2. Schools reacted to high meal costs by abolishing entitlement to a subsidised meal for non-free meal entitled pupils. Now only stigmatised poor kids got meals – the rich kids didn’t spend £4.50 a day on paying full cost.
    3. School kitchens became even more uneconomic, so production was concentrated in ‘production kitchens’ in about a third of schools, with the kitchens closed and turned into media studies rooms or whatever in the other 2/3rds
    4. 2010 Equalities Act increased wimmins’ labour costs by 25%. Many production kitchens now closed as schools bought in sandwiches from commercial suppliers for the free-meal kids.
    5. 2014 and Clegg who clearly knows none of the above makes the stupidest pledge known to history.

    He could have asked my contractor – incidentally also a school governor – and avoided making an utter ass of himself.

    • June 7, 2014 at 8:02 am

      But these people never get real advice from people with experience – merely ‘think tanks’ and activists…

  3. Ed P
    May 28, 2014 at 11:11 am

    The national lack of concern about proper nutrition for the young (& those in hospital) is baffling. Surely these are the groups more in need of a balanced diet of good quality food?
    A well-prepared packed lunch will be much more beneficial for “Chardonnay or Tyrone” that the low-grade muck schools are able to dish up on their restricted budgets.

    • Errol
      May 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Well yes, but that requires the parents to be bothered about the child. If they were, chances are the kid wouldn’t be called those names and would already have a packed lunch or wouldn’t exist at all as the parents decided they couldn’t afford to raise the child on their incomes.

      Sadly, the state wants to take away all such basic parenting responsibility because that increases it’s power over the population.

  4. May 28, 2014 at 11:40 am

    What are they eating at Eton? It won’t be Umble pie.

  5. Voice of Reason
    May 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I recall absolutely appalling meals at secondary school and my first year at university. Unlike US colleges, where students expect to gain 15 pounds their first year, I lost over 20, because I just couldn’t eat what we were served.

  6. Mudplugger
    May 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Why should the rest of the tax-payers pay to feed the 95% of kids whose parents can easily afford to do it ?
    Having children nowadays is not an accidental bi-product of adulthood, it’s a deliberate choice: a choice which should be made with full recognition and acceptance of the cost issues. If you can’t afford ’em, don’t breed ’em.
    I sure as Hell don’t want to feed ’em.

    • June 7, 2014 at 8:03 am


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