Millions set to help vulnerable pupils

Millions of pounds is to be spent helping disadvantaged pupils in parts of south east Northumberland.

Every entitled child in Northumberland is now getting a nutritious free lunch after getting a funding boost towards new school kitchens.

Government funding of over £500m helped implement the new Universal Free School Meals programme, which from September 2014 guaranteed that every child in reception Year 1 and Year 2 received a daily, free school lunch.

More than 40 primary, first and special schools in Northumberland have benefited from capital funding which has enabled efficient equipment, including fridges, cookers, steamers, hot cupboards, dishwashers and improved extraction and ventilation to be supplied and installed.

The initiative is aimed at improving academic attainment for infant children and helping families save money.

The programme was managed by Northumberland County Council’s with the majority of the work being completed in time for September 1.

Schools with less than 150 pupils also received additional funding to help support the scheme and they used this money in a variety of ways including buying salad bars and clearing trollies.

Jeff Reid, leader of the Lib Dem group on Northumberland County Council, said: “Every child should be able to reach their full potential, whatever their background.

“The pupil premium will get extra money to schools, targeted at the children who need it most. The whole class benefits when fewer children are struggling.

“I can’t wait to see how they use this additional funding to help all our children and young people succeed.”

Grant Davey, leader of the council and the Labour group, said: “It’s great to see some of our poorest schools with the highest number of free school meals pupils doing well out of this but in Northumberland we also have a number of smaller rural schools who have been left out in the race for additional funding.

“When planning these things governments should think more about equality as all school children should have a similar opportunity to progress through society.”

All children in years above Year 2 who are currently entitled to free school meals for reasons of low income or receipt of certain benefits will continue this.

Coun Robert Arckless, portfolio member for children’s services said: “This is great news both for the schools and the parents.

“Eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime not only has health benefits but the scheme helps support low income working parents.”

“Sitting down together at mealtimes teaches children good table manners and encourages conversation.”