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Tower Hamlets Council first in country to roll out free school meals for all pupils

5th Sep 2023 - 07:00
Rolling out free school meals
Tower Hamlets Council has become the first local authority in England to roll out universal free school meals to all primary and secondary pupils up to the age of 16.

While the Mayor of London is rolling out free school meals for all primary schoolchildren in London for one year, Tower Hamlets Council is going further by rolling out free school meals for all primary and secondary school pupils.  

Tower Hamlets Council has funded free school meals for all primary students since 2014. The council has provided £722,000 of upfront investment to schools for new equipment to be purchased and installed.   

By January 2024, nearly 38,000 pupils in Tower Hamlets’ primary and secondary schools will have access to a free school meal – regardless of their family’s income. Eating a healthy, nutritious meal supports pupils with their learning and has been shown to improve behaviour and academic achievements.   

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I am incredibly proud that Tower Hamlets has become the first in the country to provide free school meals to all primary and secondary school pupils. I welcome the Mayor of London’s one-year funding for primary schools and hope that Tower Hamlets has demonstrated that it is possible to fund this permanently and extend to secondary schools.   

“With the highest poverty rate in the country the scheme provides vital financial support for families in Tower Hamlets, as well as numerous health and academic benefits. I would like to thank our secondary schools who have been working extremely hard to support the launch of this ground-breaking scheme.”  

With 47.5% of children in Tower Hamlets living below the poverty line, the scheme is providing vital support during the cost-of-living crisis by saving families an average of £550 per year, per child. Around £5.7m was included in the council’s 2023/24 budget to extend universal free school meals funding from all primary to all secondary school pupils.   

Cllr Maium Talukdar, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Education, Youth and Lifelong Learning, added: “This is a special moment for Tower Hamlets as we become the first in the country to rollout universal free school meals in secondary schools.   

“A universal free school meals offer mitigates the impacts of household food insecurity and supports those who are struggling financially but slipping through the net. I look forward to evaluating the project over the coming months and seeing pupils benefit from receiving their free school meals.”

Written by
Edward Waddell