THOUSANDS more children will be tucking into free school dinners when they go back to school next month.
About 3,000 more pupils across Sunderland are expected to join the Government’s free school meals scheme, which will see all reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children eligible for free lunches.
With around 7,133 children in the city, aged between four and seven, now eligible, parents could collectively be saving more than £2.5million a year on paying for meals or packed lunches.
The move has also seen the creation of 60 new jobs in Sunderland City Council’s School Meals Service in preparation for the start of term and an expected large increase in the number of pupils using the service.
Further council investment has been put into school kitchen and dining room upgrades to make sure all schools can manage the 20 per cent rise in numbers. Hill View Infant School in Helvellyn Road, Sunderland, is expected to see the biggest increase in the number of pupils receiving free school meals, with the figure rising by 100, to 360, when it reopens in two weeks’ time.
Headteacher Claire Smith said: “The uptake in our school is going to be huge.
“It’s great news for us, and the authority has been working really closely with us to develop the menus.
“For us with such young children, we are developing their independence through the school meals and teaching them how to use a knife and fork and make meal choices.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is spearheading the new initiative, said: “Free school meals for infants will not only save families hundreds of pounds a year but will also have an impact on how a child performs in the classroom so that, regardless of their background, every child can have the best possible start in life.”