Christmas is a busy time and I tried to squeeze all these issues into one mega blog, but I am admitting defeat and will be expressing my disdain via a number of short blogs over the next few days. I apologise in advance for the disjointed nature or any repetition, but I just hope the message gets through.
In a move reminiscent of a North Korea uncle, the word “Hot” has been expunged from Nick Cleggs free school meals policy. It was quietly (and inevitably) replaced by a generic “healthy”or “nutritional” meal (meaning a paper bag with sandwiches and an apple for many).
Quelle surprise! Who could have seen that coming?
This Lib Dem flagship policy, the political prize exchanged for their support of the married tax allowance, is in tatters. It has been watered down to an almost unrecognizable “the majority of children will receive a hot lunch”. Cleggs soviet style shift away from his original promise of hot meals for all is really significant, the whole rationale behind this policy, the educational benefits of a school lunch, is based on research using almost exclusively hot meals? As far as I can see, no one has done any research into the educational benefits of a £2 packed lunch eaten in class, and sadly, for many that will be the outcome.
The practicalities of this shift to simply “the majority” should also be highlighted, how challenging is a move to a majority going to be in reality, 10% more, 15% more eating hot lunches? I suspect in some areas with existing facilities, the take up is already well over 50% meaning this has all the appearance of Clegg setting the bar low to ensure he meets this new self imposed targets?
As if this incompetence were not enough, we had the bizarre spectacle of a major policy announcement, made with no understanding of the costs involved. Not one person asked about the initial capital costs prior to hitting the media with this populist announcement. It was clear to anyone with even the smallest inkling of what is required to provide hot school lunches, no one had thought about school kitchens. Not Clegg, not DfE Minister David Laws, not one Spad, not even Dimbelby and Vincent authors of the school food plan, how inept are they all?
Eventually it must have dawned on someone that there might be an issue with infrastructure (perhaps they read it in a blog), so an audit of schools was ordered and a grand announcement of £150m for infrastructure was made in the autumn statement (glossing over the infighting over where the money was coming from, or that it should have been noticed before the policy was launched) but this in itself raised a number of questions; One has to wonder how the government actually calculated the specific figure of £150 million it allocated to improving kitchens and dining halls? Clearly it isn’t anywhere near enough to build and equip all schools to a state they can provide the “hot” element, so how exactly did they work out schools needed precisely £150m?
It’s not often I agree with @ToryEducation , but he is right to suggest “When Clegg jotted this gimmick on the back of a fag packet, he forgot thousands of primaries don’t have kitchens so he stole money from the maintenance budget to pay for his cock-up.
Every pound spent on Clegg’s kitchens in a pound not spent on a school that’s falling down. All Clegg’s figures are as trustworthy as his promises on tuition fees.”