Tower Hamlets Council has announced plans to fund free school meals for all primary and secondary school students, regardless of their parents’ income. The move makes Tower Hamlets the first council in the country to offer free school meals to every secondary school pupil up to the age of 16.
The council has been funding free lunches for primary school students since 2014 and is now extending the program to older age groups. Mayor Lutfur Rahman said the council is “proud to be investing in our young people by funding universal free school meals for all primary and secondary children.
“A high-quality universal offer improves health and educational outcomes, while reducing inequalities and saving families money.” The new arrangements mean all children in Tower Hamlets schools from Reception to Year 11 will receive free lunches.
Mayor Sadiq Khan announced all primary school children in London will be given free lunches from September for one year but Tower Hamlets scheme had been under consideration before Mr Khan’s announcement about primary school funding was made.
The council estimates that extending the program to secondary students will cost £5.7 million and has been approved as part of the council’s 2023-24 budget. Details about when the meals will be introduced and how long the program will run are expected to be announced at a future council meeting.
Campaigners are calling on the government to extend free school meals to all children whose families receive universal credit. Currently, children miss out on free school meals if their household income, excluding benefits, is over the threshold of £7,400 a year, even if their families receive universal credit.