Coronavirus: 'We have a plan for free school meals', claims Johnson

The government “has a plan” for covering free school meals for eligible pupils if schools are forced to close, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference this evening that as the government comes to a decision on whether to close schools, it will “have plans ready to go” on free school meals.

He said Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, “has a plan to make sure that parents with kids who are eligible for free school meals get the compensation or the treatment they need, one way or the other”.

“We’ve certainly anticipated that,” he added.

His comments come after headteachers raised concerns about the ability of vulnerable families to cope with school closures. For some children, the free meal provided at lunchtime can sometimes be their only hot meal of the day.

Schools Week reported this morning how schools have started pulling together plans on getting food parcels or vouchers to disadvantaged pupils who are entitled to free schools meals, with fears they could go hungry if not.

And in an open letter to the Department for Education, which has since amassed 106 signatories, heads called for clear guidance on how to solve the free school meal issue, and suggested working with supermarkets to ensure youngsters don’t go hungry.

The government’s plans are also unlikely to provide comfort for the growing numbers of families that have already withdrawn their children from school, and currently have no way of claiming free meals unless their school has already made other arrangements.

The ASCL school leaders’ union estimates school attendance has fallen to between 70 and 80 per cent.