Education / More calls for free school meal roll-out to be expanded to secondary pupils

A report is due to be brought to councillors in November about the cost of offering free meals for every pupil in school

MORE councillors have thrown their weight behind the idea of free school meals not just for all primary pupils but secondary children too.

Lerwick North and Bressay member Stephen Leask said he is working with Shetland Central colleague Ian Scott on the issue, who has talked up the idea before.

Meanwhile Labour councillor Tom Morton said he is also in favour of free school meals being expanded to secondary pupils too.

A report is due to come to councillors in November which will explore the cost of extending free meals to every pupil – both in primary and secondary schools.

Children’s services director Helen Budge told a meeting of the council’s education and families committee on Tuesday: “We have draft raw figures at the moment, which of course are changing as we speak, but by the next cycle [of meetings] we will have a report on that.”

Free school meals have historically been linked to the level of income/benefit a family receives.


At the moment the plan in Scotland is for every child in primary to have access to free school meals, regardless of their family’s income, and this is being phased in through year groups.

But the Scottish Government’s national roll-out has been delayed.

Lerwick South member John Fraser said it was “quite frankly shocking” that the project was delayed because of the capacity of kitchens in the central belt.

He felt this was unfair on other parts of the country, like Shetland. “The world does not stop at Cumbernauld,” Fraser said.

The councillor felt the issue was another reason why Shetland Islands Council should continue to look into the isles’ constitutional set-up.

In respect to the Scottish Government funding Budge confirmed the project has been delayed, but “they are still committed to it – it’s just within a longer time scale”.

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Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Stephen Leask.

She added that Shetland schools would require extra resources, as well as potentially some alterations to timetables, to enable all children to have the opportunity to receive a free meal.

The meeting heard that locally children up to primary five can now access universal free school meals.

All primary one to three pupils in Scotland have been eligible for free school meals since 2015, and this has been extended in the phased-roll out.

Leask said while he felt the Scottish Government has done well with its primary roll-out, more can be done.

“I think they could go further, and this is what councillor Scott and myself have actually brought up to the members – that we should have universal free school meals for all children, not just primary but secondary,” he said.


It comes after figures released in July showed that 18.7 per cent of young people in Shetland were deemed to be in poverty.

Meanwhile another councillor expressed concern that schools and youth projects apparently turn down free surplus food from supermarkets due to their nutritional value.

Neil Pearson, who represents Lerwick South, said: “As far as I’m concerned the difference between slightly less nutritious food and no food at all is fairly significant…at a time when families really are struggling to feed themselves.”

Children’s services director Helen Budge said a key issue was educating young people on why the council provides the food it does – and its health and nutritional benefits.

She highlighted, however, that young folk have the choice when deciding what to eat in school hours.

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