Positive response to free school lunches for infants across St Albans district

Example of a healthy school lunch box.

Example of a healthy school lunch box. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Free school lunches for infant classes look set to be a success across the St Albans district despite fears that schools may not cope.

Example of an unhealthy school lunch box.

Example of an unhealthy school lunch box. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

The move comes as part of the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals policy in which schools legally have to supply a free meal to pupils aged four to seven.

Fears that schools might not cope with the extra numbers have so far proved unfounded, with some barely noticing a difference.

Clare Stanley, office manager at Maple Primary School in St Albans, said: “We’re quite lucky; we had a double intake Year 6 which left us last year, meaning we’re very prepared and it hasn’t made a huge impact on us.

“At the moment we’ve only got Year 1 and 2, as Reception only do half days for the first two weeks, so we’ve had no big issues at all.”

The popularity of school lunches beforehand have meant that Garden Fields could easily cope with the change. Headteacher Chris Jukes, of Garden Fields JMI in St Albans, said: “The number of children eating school dinners has not been out of the ordinary for us, at around 75/80 per cent uptake.

“I think a lot of parents don’t know about the change, so that figure should rise to about 95 per cent, but I don’t think that will make much of a difference. We’re totally pleased with it all.”

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Some schools have found that limitations in their kitchen have made the transition a little bit harder.

Park Street School has had to deal with more than 40 extra school lunches without the aid of a dishwasher.

Headteacher at Park Street primary school, Tracey Facer, said: “We understand that other schools have priority at this time, schools that don’t have a kitchen or have more pupils, and we have been promised a dishwasher in the future.

“At the moment we are dealing quite well with it. We are fairly lucky because we planned ahead and we have a kitchen on site.

“This is so important. I think it’s a brilliant idea. Ensuring pupils eat good quality lunch stops them struggling in the afternoon; you really notice the difference.”