Free college meals

By John Freeman

| 06 August 2012

It has long been a clear injustice that young people in receipt of benefits can have free meals when they attend a school sixth form but not when they attend a sixth-form college or an FE college.

Government policy and funding methodology should be changed to ensure that colleges are funded for this vital student support.

So I was torn when I read that Surrey County Council is funding free meals in FE colleges for young people who would have been eligible had they been at a school sixth form.

On the one hand, it is unambiguous good news for these young people; they will be able to stay in education and to learn while not being hungry. On the other hand, it is bad news for all the other local authorities; Surrey, as a relatively wealthy local authority, does not have many children on free school meals – only 7.6 per cent – and the cost will not be huge.

But other local authorities will just not be able to pick up the much larger tab – what will happen in Dudley, with twice as many at 14.1 per cent, or South Tyneside with three times as many at 23.8 per cent?

I repeat, this is no a local issue, but a matter for government action.

The problem (of course) is that school policy falls under the Department for Education while FE college policy is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' remit... un-joined-up government at its worst.

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