Free School Meals? Where do we cook ’em?!

I am often very glad we moved out here to France – when I pause on my drives to work and look at the scenery, when I realise how much I enjoy my work, when we are spending time over an apèro with friends – but they are all positive reasons. I rarely look back and think that I was glad to get away from the UK. However, today I think I am happy to be away from my old job…

I used to work for Milton Keynes Council, in the Education  Asset Management department : we would support Headteachers in their projects, we were heavily involved in the planning and building of new schools and extensions, I was responsible for improving access for the disabled to schools. it was an interesting job, but it could be stressful.

Yesterday I watched an article on the One Show, where a headteacher was wondering how she was going to find the money and the space to build a kitchen that was able to provide the free school meals that all primary schools are required to privide from next September. This article from the Guardian reinterates the difficulties that schools will have. On overcrowded sites, where every classroom is crammed full of children where on earth are Headteachers expected to find the space?

When I was teaching, I remember the joy there was (and the money spent on the project!) when it was no longer a requirement to provide hot meals for the children, and the school kitchen was turned into a classrom and resource room. At last more space! The children ate their packed lunches in the hall – which meant that the hall was out of action for PE and drama from 11.30 to 2.00 but that was a small price to pay. Knowing that school site, I cannot imagine how the Head will find space to provide a kitchen were school meals can be provided!

This was the school where I taught (though not, I hasten to add, when it first opened!)

If I was still working for MKC I am sure that I would be involved in this initiative – and I can imagine that it would be a really difficult and stressful time. Money which could be used for extra staff, for supporting the children, for books and IT equipment has to be spent on kitchens and dining rooms (or equipment). I do understand that there is a need to tackle the obesity “epidemic” that is occurring throughout the developed world; I do understand that there are children whose packed lunches consist of nothing more than prepacked sodium-and-sugar-laden junk food; I do understand that there are children for whom the school lunch might be the only nutritious meal they get during their day. I understand all that – but I still am not convinced that demanding schools provide a free, nutritionally balanced hot meal for all children is the best answer.

I’m not totally sure of the system here in France – not having children, I haven’t had to find out – although I know that meals are provided at a price. But they’re certainly not free!

Source: here

In fact, the whole article this image is taken, from is an interesting read: you can find out more about how the French tackle the school meal debate.

So: I’m not a parent; I was a teacher and an Asset Management Project officer; That’s my opinion on the debbate.

What’s yours?

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One Response to Free School Meals? Where do we cook ’em?!

  1. When I went through primary school in the 1950s, we came home for lunch. Secondary school, in the early 1960s, was too far away, and I always had school meals. They were never free, so we had to take cash to pay for them – five shillings for the week. Many of us bought four “dinner tickets” for the week, and spent the other shilling in the tuck shop. It meant we went hungry one day each week, but that’s no big thing. Mum never knew about the hungry day; her belief was that we had a hot meal at school, so didn’t need another one at home. Evening meal at home was “tea” – bread and jam, and a piece of cake. I’m not sure how this answers your post, but I probably feel better for saying it.

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