Following analysis of Government data, Sharon raised the impact that the Government’s decision to scrap funding to small schools to help pay for Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) and the impact this would have on small schools across the country, especially in seats held by Tories who have been silent on this issue.
This all followed the leaking of the Small Schools Taskforce report – which was commissioned to look into how small schools would continue to fund UIFSM – and concluded that if further funding was not allocated to small schools to help pay for UIFSM then schools would face a loss of nearly £4000 a year.
Analysis of the data by Sharon found that the worst region to be affected by this cut was the South West, where 520 schools would lose out on a total of £1,196,000 in funding which would affect 17,577 children. Based on the number of schools affected by this cut, all of the schools were based in Conservative constituencies, such as Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary and Patrick McLoughlin, Chairman of the Conservative Party, whilst based on the number of children impacted by this cut, both the Health Secretary and the former Prime Minister’s constituencies were top of the league.
During her exchange with the Schools Minister, Sharon highlighted that 566 children from across the constituencies of Education Ministers have been impacted by this cut, yet was met with a lack of understanding or knowledge by the Schools Minister who reiterated that the Government was looking at the funding for rural schools.
Following Education Questions, Sharon said:
“It was clear that the Minister had not fully understood my question and the impact of the cuts his Department have made to such vital funding that ensures children are eating a hot and healthy free school meal at lunchtimes.
“He may have said that they are looking into the funding of rural schools, however, in a report that his own Department commissioned and subsequently sat on to save themselves some grief, it shows that this cut to UIFSM small school’s subsidies will greatly impact the budgets of schools. It might be an idea that the minister goes back to his officials and asks them to pull off the Small Schools Taskforce report from the shelf and let him have a good read of it.
“Providing children with a hot and healthy school meal, especially a one that is free, is an important way of addressing many issues, including educational attainment, behavioural issues and as evidence shows, feeding a child a healthy meal can have many benefits on their health. Let’s hope that the Government will finally reconsider this decision to cut such important funding and make sure that children and these small schools are not worse off because of such a short-sighted cut.”
You can read Sharon’s exchange with the Schools Minister here.