The government’s announcement yesterday around school closures immediately raised a lot of uncertainty, both for schools and parents. One of the biggest areas of concern was around how their decision was going to affect children who were entitled to free school meals and those who came from low-income families.
Today (19th March 2020), the government have gone some way to allaying some of that uncertainty by releasing guidance to help clarify what schools should do to ensure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals.
Their free school meals guidance applies to those children who are having to self-isolate, either because they or wider family members are displaying signs of coronavirus, as well as to those who will be affected by the school closures.
It explains the steps that schools should take to make sure that low-income families still receive support. This includes schools taking advantage of their in-house catering team if they can to help deliver food parcels directly or in preparation for collection. Similarly, the guidance suggests that schools may want to consider using local community initiatives, whether through acting as a local hub or through a charity.
It is suspected though that many schools will take up the DfE’s advice around providing vouchers to parents from supermarkets and local shops. With immediate effect, schools can order vouchers directly from retailers which they can then send on to parents, either via email or in the post. All costs will be covered by the government.
This is only likely to be a short-term measure for now though with a more coordinated, national approach currently being developed around how schools should provide these vouchers. This additional guidance will also include the total values being provided and is likely to be published in the very near future.
Further information on the free schools meals guidance can be found here.