All five-to-seven year-old pupils in state schools in England will receive free school meals from September next year, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

Mr Clegg said: "My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits. Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society."

free school meals.jpgThe School Food Plan - Boosting Educational Achievement

The £600m plan is designed to boost the health and educational attainment of children. The School Food Plan, published by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent in July this year, recommended that government embark on a phased roll out of free school meals for all children in all primary schools. The School Food Plan presented evidence that this would lead to positive improvements in health, attainment and social cohesion, and help families with the cost of living.

The plan showed that in pilot areas:

  • Students were found to be on average 2 months ahead of their peers elsewhere
  • Between 3% and 5% more children reached target levels in Maths and English at Key Stage 1, a bigger improvement than the 3.6% boost that followed the introduction of a compulsory literacy hour in 1998
  • Academic improvements were most marked among children from less affluent families
  • There was a 23% increase in the number of children eating vegetables at lunch and an 18% drop in those eating crisps
  • The School Food Plan was drawn up by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, co-founders of the Leon restaurant chain, who said "every word" was endorsed and "signed off" by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.

    Read more on the benefits of School feeding