As a result of concerns raised at a national level, I have understandably had a considerable number of emails regarding the provision of food parcels or vouchers for children who are entitled to free school meals.
I hope the below provides some helpful information about the position in Devon.
During term time schools (not the LA) receive funding from the DfE to provide free school meals for entitled children. Schools currently receive £450 per pupil, per school year, to provide a free school meal. This works out at approximately £2.43 per day depending on the number of non-pupil days the schools have. This equates to £12.15 per week.
The DfE have in the last few days confirmed that they will add an extra £3.50 per week per pupil to cover the additional costs of providing a food parcel. This means schools will now have around £15.65 per week per pupil to provide the food parcels.
To date, the DfE has said in their guidance that schools should use food parcels in the first instance and move to vouchers if this is not possible. Schools already employ their own staff or have contracts with the catering providers to supply meals on site for entitled children throughout the year and this principal would get best value from the existing contract.
The DfE had already provided guidance on the content and usability of the food parcels but this guidance has been updated today.
In Devon some schools are providing mostly food parcels, others mostly vouchers and in some schools, there is a choice available to suit family needs and access to shops; this is mainly in rural areas.
To support schools the council made available the vouchers we used successfully over the Christmas period and a number of schools have bought into this scheme.
To date, I have only received one complaint about the quality of food parcels provided by Devon schools, and a number complimenting schools on the good work they have done. We have followed up with the school where there was a concern.
Changes announced today
I have however received many communications expressing concern about how families access the parcels and the embarrassment this may cause. Therefore, I am pleased that the DfE has today announced that the national voucher system will be back in place by Monday and that vouchers obtained through this route will be centrally funded by the DfE.
Whilst strongly encouraging schools to still use food parcels where feasible, they have also said that schools can claim to be reimbursed up to £15 per eligible FSM pupil per week for the provision of local vouchers.
Schools are not required to provide free school meals during school holidays and the Local Authority will again look to support families with vouchers over the February half term.
Head of Education and Learning
15th January 2021