The Liberal Democrat leader said the new policy will be worth more than £400 a year for children in Reception, Year One or Two.
At present, around 400,000 children in the first three years of primary education are eligible for free school meals. Mr Clegg’s change means another 1.5 million children will not have to pay for lunches.
The free meals will go to all children at English state schools, regardless of their parents’ income!
Packed lunches were nearly always less nutritious than a cooked meal, and that giving all children free lunches would raise academic standards. See the blog on the difference between packed lunch and school dinners HERE.
The new policy does not ban packed lunches, but the aim is that having the hot, free option, will boost the numbers of pupils having school dinners.
Mr Clegg said: “My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze… I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families. We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits. Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society.”
At the moment free school meals are available to all children whose parents are on benefits or earn less than £16,190 a year.
The Lib Dems also announced that poorer college students will be entitled to free school meals – on the same basis as those studying at school sixth forms.