Note of reassurance for parents receiving Free School Meal entitlement via vouchers.
There has been increased publicity over the last few days highlighting the clear instruction to school leaders not to issue Free School Meal vouchers to parents and instead arrange food parcels home.
‘We strongly encourage schools to work with their school catering team or food supplier to provide food parcels to eligible free school meal pupils who are at home’. (Providing free school meals guidance for schools during lockdown, January 2021).
In addition to this, the government removed the approved/administrated system (Edenred) for free school meal vouchers after the first lockdown, leading an increasing number of school leaders to revert to food parcels.
Why are the government recommending schools use catering firms to send parcels rather than issue vouchers?
This is a controversial directive and action from the government that has yet to be explained thoroughly. Certainly, it is different to that of the initial lockdown. It is possible that not using school catering providers may result in the loss of services in the long run as they become financially non-viable. In turn, this could result in the forced closure of school kitchens when 'normality' returns. The impact of this would be catastrophic as it would remove the options available for hot meals at schools - no caterers, no hot food.
Despite this, there are indications that the government are looking to reinstate a centralised voucher scheme for schools in the near future, which would be a u-turn on the position to date.
Will Ashgate continue to issue vouchers?
I want to reassure parents that, even though the voucher system put in place by Gov UK has now been terminated and I have been directed otherwise, Ashgate Primary School will continue to offer food vouchers during lockdown, as we always have when they have been available. In order to do so, we are acting independently of the guidance.
I act in this manner as:
This action will continue to be reviewed in line with guidance.
Advanced notice of any change to this arrangement will be shared if and when appropriate.