Ahead of the new school term, Plaid Cymru has renewed its calls for free school meals to be extended across secondary schools.
In England, a child is eligible for a free school meal only if their household receives certain benefits, but in Wales, thanks to the Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government, this is being extended to all primary school children, starting this month.
However, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price MS, has always been clear that universal primary school meals is “step one” and outlined his vision of extending this policy across Wales at his party’s Spring Conference.
Adam Price has renewed his calls for this to be set as a national commitment, and said:
“Universal free school meals for primary school pupils is Plaid Cymru at its best. However, we have always said that we see the introduction of free school meals for primary school children as a first step. To us, it isn’t a matter of if this should happen, but when.
“By starting the conversations and outlining what needs to happen to roll this out across all schools, and to all ages, we can plan to make a tangible difference to people’s lives.
“I’m under no illusion that this work will be easy, but there can be no doubt that it’s necessary. Hungry children cannot learn, and this is no less true in secondary schools as it is in primary schools.
“I’m proud that it’s a Plaid Cymru council that is leading the way, but of course, the quickest and fairest way of extending this policy would be to have it set as a national commitment, fully funded by Welsh Government so that children and young people all over Wales can benefit.
“In the face of a Tory Westminster Government, it would show exactly how we can do things differently in Wales.”
The new leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr. Darren Price says that poverty doesn’t stop when children reach secondary school, and that conversations need to begin now on making universal free school meals a possibility in Wales.
Using what local authorities have learned from the roll out of universal free meals in primary school, Cllr Price has announced that Carmarthenshire County Council stand ready to assess what would be required to deliver free meals to a higher number of secondary school pupils.
Cllr Price said,
“In Wales we’re doing things differently – and Plaid Cymru has a clear vision for Wales that includes giving our children the best start in life.
“In accepting that universal free primary school meals are an important step in tackling the symptoms of child poverty, the next logical step is starting to think how we could roll this out across secondary schools.
“We can begin conversations around how we do this by learning from the free school meals rollout for primary schools. After all, poverty doesn’t stop in primary school.
“That’s why we need to be taking steps to assess what would be required to deliver to a higher number of pupils.
“Anything we can do now to help plan for a future rollout of this policy we are glad to do – we have learned a lot and overcome a number of challenges to hit the target of commencing the rollout of free school meals for primary school pupils. In conjunction with local government across Wales we stand ready to offer expertise and ideas as to what this could look like in secondary school settings.
“In Carmarthenshire, a key focus as we continue the present rollout for primary schools will be to develop and support local suppliers and producers through the supply chain, thereby supporting local businesses and help safeguard jobs in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.”