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Council / Councillors implement SNP policies on free school meals and clothing grants

COUNCILLORS have approved updated policies which will see free school meals provided to all primary pupils and an increase in the size of school clothing grants available to eligible families.

As part of the SNP government’s manifesto for the first 100 days of its new administration, an increase in the annual school clothing grant to £120 for primary and £150 for secondary pupils will now take effect.

A £100 per pupil annual payment was first introduced in 2018/19, and Shetland Islands Council will continue paying that amount to eligible nursery age pupils.

The school clothing grant was paid to 467 pupils in the 2020/21 academic year.

Meanwhile, in line with Scottish finance minister Kate Forbes’ announcement in March this year, a phased expansion of universal school meals will see all P1-P4 children receive free meals.

P5 children will become eligible from January 2022, with P6-P7 children to follow from August 2022.

Executive schools manager Shona Thompson said that while Shetland was unlikely to be among the local authorities which require capital spending to provide meals across-the-board, the precise cost implications are unknown.

“We may well need additional staff, we may well need additional equipment, never mind additional food supplies,” she told councillors.

Free school meal holiday support for children eligible on the basis of low income was introduced in July this year.

Thompson pointed out that parents and carers who meet eligibility would need to continue submitting applications to ensure they receive holiday support.

The changes were welcomed by Shetland Central councillor Davie Sandison, who said it was “going to be beneficial to quite a number of families out there” – a sentiment endorsed by committee chairman George Smith.