Earlier this month, the Department for Education announced that it will be obligatory for all schools in England to provide free school meals for all pupils in Years R, 1 and 2 as of September 2014. Whilst not exactly a surprise, the idea has been bubbling on the back burner for some time, the brief period allotted between policy ratification and implementation has found many schools unprepared.
The intended benefits of the initiative are unarguably sound: there cannot be many who disagree with the aims of teaching healthy eating habits young and boosting attainment early. However, even Nick Clegg has admitted that there will be “implementation challenges” in some schools.
The provision of school meals to the whole of KS1 (a segment of the school population already growing rapidly) poses two significant conundrums to many schools. The first is the need to improve or extend their kitchen facilities (or indeed to build some from scratch) and the second is how to tackle the logistics of serving a much larger number of children in the existing space available for lunch time. Regarding the kitchen facilities, the use of external caterers is an option, although there will still need to be room for serving and cleaning equipment, and quality and consistency must be constantly monitored. The solution of the problem of inadequate dining space is trickier, particularly if your school is already using its hall to maximum capacity. Staggering lunchtimes is a possibility although no small child will be able to last to, say, a 2pm lunchtime.
There will be some funding available to assist with transitional costs, particularly in small schools ( less than 150 pupils), and should your school be fortunate enough to secure some of these funds you will have to work to a fairly tight schedule if you are to hit the September deadline. Our modular school buildings are an inexpensive and fast means to solving your immediate needs, and our complete turnkey service will minimise the time you need to devote to managing the project. We can create a fully equipped kitchen, or a flexible dining area that can be transformed into extra classroom space when not in use for eating. All of our buildings are light and airy, with full length windows and bi-folding doors (making alfresco dining possible in all but the most inclement of weathers) and are easily extendable, should more funds become available or the scheme extended to older year groups.
Have a chat with one of our team, by calling us on 0800 917 7726, to see how we can help you create a space in which to provide a healthy lunch for your KS1 pupils. It might be more affordable and considerably less hassle than you think.