Portsmouth headteacher warns against free meals loss

Forest School Leaders Dawn White and Sue Evans with their pupils outside the school

Picture: Habibur Rahman (180146-338)

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THE HEAD of one of Portsmouth’s most deprived schools has urged a rethink of the government’s welfare reforms that could result in hundreds of thousands of children losing out on free school meals.

Sandra Miller, of Charles Dickens Juniors, where more than half of all pupils are eligible for free meals, has spoken out after a charity claimed low-income families would be penalised under the new rules from October 2013.

The Children’s Society’s report Fair and Square says ministers are considering a new income cap for eligible families of just £7,500 – resulting in about 350,000 children in England losing out on free meals.

Miss Miller said: ‘The impact of these changes would be huge and I would urge ministers to rethink. For some of our children their free school meal is the only hot meal they get in a day. If it goes it will affect children’s diets and their education.’

‘There should be more help for parents who are struggling with the cost of meals, uniform and equipment – not less.’

Another consequence of the cap, it is argued, is that poorer families at risk of losing free meals worth £367 a year could choose to work less to drop their earnings below the threshold.