Car crash UIFSM interview, Laws passes the buck and Clegg ignores the law

Yesterday was another busy day on the free school meals front. BBC released some shocking figures on school kitchens, or more the lack of them,  David Laws peddling his views on the radio (and sent schools a letter on PP) then there was a remarkable discussion between Henry de Zoete and Lib Dem grandee Sir Malcolm Bruce on the daily politics show. Finally I noticed a missive from Nick Clegg, which has since been amended. I have left in my comments in, as it was significant, so much so they have been removed!As Laws was his usual slimy self and the daily politics really was car crash telly, I will go through the show in depth, please bear with me as it gets good towards the end and it is genuinely amazing. the show starts at 10:40

The DP ran a story by Alex Forsyth including a visit to a school where the head insisted, they would not be able to deliver a hot lunch, Mr Churchill could not have been any clearer, their hall isn’t big enough, they don’t have a suitable kitchen and the money to build new facilities simply isn’t there.Henry put forward an argument that the policy was never properly thought through funded or practical. His views are consistent my own, those of Dominic Cummings, (who was also in the DFE at the appropriate time), and importantly consistent with the evidence. As for Sir Malcolm. It is hard to know what to say, after all this man is deputy leader of the liberal democrats, if Nick Clegg is incapacitated, he steps in and becomes the second most powerful man in the country?

Sir Malcolm starts with the tricky subject of hot meals, but gets all confused, apparently hot is now “an objective and it will happen, the money has been provided to make it happen“. He clearly didn’t take in what the head was saying? He doesn’t seem to know when of if every school will or will not have or not to provide a hot meal or a cold one. Let me be clear, hot school meals for all, as promised by Clegg will not happen unless massive amounts of money are found (not £150m).

His statements that the DfE is “quite relaxed and will be able to deliver” and “pretty confident” is very worrying if true.
Because of the lax nature of DfE contact over the policy, (the first letter was at the end of January), schools are only now ramping up with the practicalities,  the DfE dont appear to actually have a grasp of the numbers of schools in need, what these schools actually need, nor how much it will cost. Rather than establishing facts, they appear to be relying on the advice from vested interests who continue to tell them everything in the garden is rosy. We also see a recurring theme common to UIFSM supporters,  they insist there is plenty of money to make it happen.  As I keep pointing out, the problem with this argument is no one actually knows if it is enough! How can they? If they didn’t know the state of school kitchens at the time of the announcement, how can they possibly have known how much money is needed?  It is clear, the treasury were put under pressure and found the £150m but told Clegg  that was it.  Then without checking actual need, it was decided that £150m was exactly the right amount schools needed and announced with a big fanfare (ignoring the fact they forgot to include any infrastructure costs initially )
As always with UIFSM supporter he then commits the same old “mistakes” confusing the policy, the SFP and the pilot. How many times must I point out that no one besides the Lib Dems ever suggested infants, a mass roll out, legislation or a rushed start date.  Again we get told how the policy has educational benefits, ignoring that they are marginal and can’t be attributed to universal FSM, but perhaps it is the only justification they can cling to these days?As if it to bring gravitas and impress we are now told that Bruce has consulted David Laws, he then says “the pilot schemes were well tested… and rollout determined according to needThat is a barefaced lie! Need I say more? He even has the cheek to suggest that by not having UIFSM  “the education performance of children has been undermined” this is contrary to the best evidence on the topic, the Ells report, a systematic review, (ie the gold standard) on diet & nutrition and it’s impact on learning and education performance in children, they found no link, but hey, what do they know?

On a roll, he now comes out with the classic “There are hiccups and should be accepted and dealt with, its not an argument for rubbishing or denigrating  the policy” No Sir Malcolm, there are fundamental problems because the policy wasn’t thought through, it is right they should be highlighted and those responsible found accountable.
At this point, I would suggest that teachers put down any hot drinks and cover the ears of small children, because when asked about the problems with finding extra staff at lunchtime, he came up with
The question you have to raise is;  What are the teachers doing when the children are having lunch at the moment, at lunchtime” “I am quite sure schools can manage this by reorganising the day but not by necessarily having extra people
So teachers don’t need a lunchtime and there is no requirement for any more staff to cope with all the extra lunches? Perhaps he thinks teachers should do the washing up as well? Perhaps this level of understanding of both teaching and the implications of the policy shows why we are in such a mess? This man is on TV specifically to talk about UIFSM and he comes up with that?
It really is appalling. He must realise these are not mealy hiccups, these are fundamental issues with serious consequences, yet we get is palmed off with “it will be fine”, again and again. Henry rightly points out the major consequences for pupil premium numbers and gets nothing, effectively the message is “it will be fine, nothing to see here, move on”
Even when asked about the ridiculous method chosen for distribution funding he says
should be possible for local ed authorities to negotiate across the piece, those schools who don’t need the money can make it available for those who are” This shows no understanding of the problem or how LAs work. Is he seriously expecting Newham to volunteer their share of the funding to Mr Churchill in Dorset?
Building up to a crescendo we now get the two big lies 
there’s enough money in the system” 
“If those issues do exist and I am not aware of them...” 
There has just been a VT with yet another head teacher telling you there is not enough money and the issues are real, how can you not be aware?
At this point for the sake of my blood pressure, I had better stop quoting the Right Honorable Gentleman (right as he is a member of the privy council) and move on to another Lib Dem liar, Maria Millers new best friend, David Laws (that support turned out well)
I shall briefly cover the 2 David Laws interviews on the radio this morning, I won’t systematically go though the content as I have imposed enough on people already and to be honest I am tired and he says the same thing, tells the same lies as he always does, just in different waysWhat struck me today was how he keeps saying how he “believes this is the situation. It was reminiscent of Blair prior to the Iraq war, now I am not suggesting this is as bad as war, but it is interesting nevertheless. Especially when combined with the fact he points out that the people who are paid to help implement the policy, are advising him and telling him how great it is all going, how they say there aren’t any problems at all, In fact they say there isn’t a problem they can’t sort out.

If I was an adviser, I would be wondering if this shift was the start of something sinister, of a process of transferring blame. I would be thinking on how the minister was distancing himself from the implementation and preparing the ground for all problems to be laid at someone else’s door? Clearly the issues with funding and timescale are policy and as such were caused by Laws, but he appears to be dumping responsibility for any failures onto those advisors and (as I mentioned in a previous blog), onto heads.
My sympathy for those advising Laws is limited, as they appear to continually tell him what he wants to hear. I was incredulous at the claim the advisors had managed to sort out every single problem they encountered. Then I realised how this was possible.
If you phone the helpline and ask for help, they guide you through the best practice, much of it well documented since the Jamie Oliver days and well written up in the SFP. If you say, I don’t have a kitchen, they tell you to talk to your LA, if you say the LA has no money, they quote £150m (despite LAs only getting £130m) if you ask a question about the policy, they refer you to DfE. So in effect, they are specifically avoiding any real or difficult questions and basically quoting the school food plan to people. In their view, referring questions on funding to the LA counts as successfully helping a school and they can do it every time! Trebles all round!
Besides getting up early for the radio, Laws has been busy writing to heads, to tell  them that the impending problems with pupil premium numbers caused by the policy aren’t really a problem. With extra systems, extra time and money, schools and LAs can keep numbers up.  No offer of money to fund this extra work of course, that wouldn’t be the done thing! The expectation is that schools are awash with funds and staff can work even longer hours.
One final thing came to my attention today, a message from Nick Clegg no less. The man who decided that UIFSM should be enshrined in Law, the man who amended the children’s act to place a responsibility on schools to provide all infant aged children with a free school meal from September 2014. Of course it starts off with lies but it is towards the end that it becomes newsworthy.
This is the amended site! The original stated that schools would be given more time, I will try an find a link to the original., my comments are based on what was originally said.
Apparently the Deputy Prime Minister has the power to waive this legislation if it suits, as he states  “Schools will be given more time” Now I know the DPM has some influence, but I am not sure he can pick and choose when laws apply?
This is basically an admission that they got the timescales wrong, but they can’t actually say that, because that would make them look stupid, only that is exactly what he has admitted and he does look stupid. Watch out for more of this “giving schools more time”  malarkey, it appears they are trying to use it as a get out of jail free card for their ridiculous imposition of timescales.
Thank you for bearing with this, One final final point for anyone reading this who may get to question someone on UIFSM, do contact me, I have a number of questions that would cut through all this garbage and get to the heart of the issue.  I am getting weary of writing again and again about the lies that abound on UIFSM. I genuinely have better things to do.

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