Schools in Worcestershire are not well-equipped for hot meals revolution, says councillor (From Bromsgrove Advertiser)
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Schools in Worcestershire are not well-equipped for hot meals revolution, says councillor
10:40am Saturday 21st June 2014 in Local
WORCESTERSHIRE County Council has stressed that schools will be adequately prepared and ready for September's hot dinner revolution.
All pupils in the first three years of first and primary schools can get free hot lunches from this autumn in a £600 million Coalition Government bid to appease parents.
However, former teacher turned councillor Paul Denham claims years of underfunding has left many schools without good enough kitchens to cope with a sudden explosion in take-up.
His criticism has been rejected by Worcestershire County Council, which says state schools have been handed £1.2 million ahead of September's big change and are all ready to go.
Councillor Denham said: "Primary age children entitled to free school meals were given packets of sandwiches which identified them to other pupils.
"Kitchens were converted for other uses and new schools were built without them. Schools without kitchens are now expected to provide free hot meals by September.
"Some do not have sufficient space to seat pupils for lunch and will need multiple sittings which require more supervision and impact on lesson times."
He added: "Some Worcestershire schools are to have meals delivered from outside caterers and other schools but that might mean that their meals are lukewarm, not hot, when served."
The council says the Government has awarded it £1.2 million for new kitchen and dining facilities to prepare for the policy.
Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and families, said: "It's a choice for parents to make and not all of them will want free school meals.
"When we told schools we had this money not one of them applied for extra space for their kitchens - some of them said bits of equipment or a refresh of their facilities would help.
"We had bids for money from 145 first and primary schools and 13 secondaries, and of those only three exceeded the limit.
"They asked for a total of £1.3 million and we spent £1.2 million, so nearly all of them got what they wanted."
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