Whole Education joined forces with Teach First, Big Education Conversation and a number of Multi-Academy Trusts representing schools across the country to call for action to help children losing Free School Meals in the face of imminent school closures.
The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday announced support for schools providing meals for children normally receiving free school meals, confirming a forthcoming national approach to supermarket e-vouchers and gift cards and reimbursement for schools incurring extra costs.
This means schools can now get reimbursed for spending on food vouchers to help families during the 5 week school closures.
Read our statement in response to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education’s announcement on school closures and Free School Meal support for schools
We are reassured to see schools across the country receive news from Secretary of State Gavin Williamson that Headteachers will be able to use Free School Meal funding to meet the needs of children when schools close – and welcome to announcement the Department for Education is looking into a National Voucher Scheme. Access to Free School Meal funding as our schools close due to the spread of Covid-19 will be a vital part of the social safety net which families need to keep children healthy and well fed with schools shut for a longer period.
Education and civil society organisations Whole Education, Teach First, Fair Education Alliance, Big Education Trust, and Citizens UK – altogether representing over 10,000 of families, teachers, and school leaders – and multi-academy trusts* yesterday wrote to the major supermarket chains, urging that schools could purchase vouchers giving families access to a wider range of food items than is currently possible. Currently, most major retailers only offer meal deal vouchers.
Seb Chapleau, Director of the Big Education Conversation said: “Headteachers are increasingly worried about what life will look like when schools close, especially for vulnerable children. We are grateful that the DfE and retailers have put practical steps in place to enable schools to distribute food vouchers to families in need, which is definitely the right thing to do. We’ll carry on working with school leaders to identify what is needed to support our children and families through the biggest challenge our country has faced for a very long time. In times like these that we can define what it means to be human and work together for the common good.”
James Pope, Executive Director of the Whole Education network said: “WE welcome this announcement that will practically support our most vulnerable children during this crisis. WE are very grateful to the DfE and the organisations, schools and trusts who have worked so hard to make this happen – and for their incredible, ongoing hard work supporting young people and their communities. WE look forward to continuing working with inspirational schools and leaders to ensure young people continue to learn and; more importantly, are happy and healthy.”
Matthew Bolton, Executive Director, Citizens UK said: “We know the people in our communities, our neighbours, who are most at risk. The elderly, the ill, the precariously employed and families on low incomes. Schools already give vital assistance to the families of pupils on free school meals and this move will help them do their bit in the crisis response needed to safeguard the most vulnerable.”
*representing ARBIB Education Trust, Pioneer Educational Trust, Woodland Academy Trust, CMAT, LEAP and Anglian Learning