Every primary school child in England will have access to a free breakfast under plans unveiled by Labour. Labour\’s education spokesperson Bridget Phillipson said breakfast clubs across England would be funded by returning the top income tax rate to 45%. Ms Phillipson said breakfast clubs would be the \”first step to a modern childcare system\”. Schools in disadvantaged areas can apply for a 75% subsidy to run a breakfast club.
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Until July, schools in areas with many children from deprived backgrounds were eligible for a 100% subsidy to provide free breakfasts. However, this was cut by the government and is no longer available. Ms Phillipson said that by bringing back the top income tax rate, they would be able to reinstate the 100% subsidy and make breakfast free for all primary school children in England.
The Labour Party has long championed free school meals, with then-leader Ed Miliband pledging to extend them to all primary school children in 2014. The policy was widely seen as a way to tackle child poverty and improve educational attainment.
However, the government said the policy would be too expensive and would not target the neediest children. They instead introduced a scheme whereby all infants in primary schools (aged 4-7) were eligible for free school meals, for £600 million per year. This was later extended to include children in Reception and Year 1 (aged 4-6).
Ms Phillipson said breakfast clubs were a \”proven way to improve educational outcomes\”. She cited research which showed that children who eat a healthy breakfast perform better in school, are more likely to attend school regularly, and are less likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour.
The government has said it is \”open to looking at different ways\” of providing free school meals but has not committed to any specific policy. It is unclear how much Labour\’s proposal would cost, but it is likely to be significantly more than the current system. With an election due in May 2019, this is likely to be a key battleground between the two parties.
Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, tweeted: \”Labour\’s new policy on breakfast clubs is a cynical attempt to buy votes with other people\’s money.\”
In 2016, the government spent £1.15 billion on free school meals for 1.3 million children. This is equivalent to £886 per child. Labour\’s proposal would almost certainly cost more than this, although it is unclear how much more. The party has said it will consult with schools and childcare providers to find the best way to implement the policy.
The government has said that its priority is to ensure that all children have access to a nutritious meal at lunchtime and that it is up to schools to decide whether or not they offer breakfast. It is unclear how many schools currently offer a breakfast club, but it is likely to be a minority. In 2016, just over half of primary schools in England showed some form of breakfast provision, although this figure has been rising in recent years.
Labour\’s policy would require a substantial investment in staff and infrastructure and a significant increase in funding. However, the party believes that the benefits outweigh the costs and that providing free breakfast to all primary school children would be a key step in tackling child poverty.
Do you think it is a good idea? Or do you think it is a waste of money? Let us know in the comments below!
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