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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Free meals to be given at Cumbria schools

CUMBRIA schools without kitchen facilities are working against a tight timeframe to be ready to serve free school dinners to infant pupils.

From September all five to seven-year-olds are entitled to a free school meal.

Around £1.2m is to be spent in Cumbria, from government and county council funding, to upgrade kitchen facilities. Primary schools where pupils now eat a packed lunch are either looking to build kitchens or have hot meals cooked and brought in.

The Our Lady of Furness Catholic Federation – which comprises of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Ulverston, and Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School, Dalton – is to benefit from new £105,000 kitchen facilities.

Both schools serve packed lunches, but St Mary’s will have a purpose built kitchen created, which will also provide meals for pupils at Our Lady’s. The Dalton primary will also have serving facilities made. The Diocese of Lancaster will contribute 10 per cent of the cost and work will start in the summer.

Executive headteacher, Nicola Rielly, said: “We are lucky we have the space to build these facilities. The timeframe is very short, it’s just over 13 weeks away.

“The diocese have been very good and they have taken the pressure off. It’s very good that children will get a free hot meal at lunch time.”

The schools also offer paid-for meals to Key Stage Two children.

South Walney Infant and Nursery School is also pleased its children will get free meals. Headteacher Nancy McKinnell said it would be of great benefit to children and their families, but it has been very difficult for schools with no kitchens.

Mrs McKinnell said: “Our plan is to buy in a meal service from either Walney School or Orian where the meals are served by our school and the plates and cutlery is washed by the provider. I don’t think they (the government) have considered the implications enough for schools with no kitchen facilities. The timescale has been short.”

The head said lunch times and new staff will be taken on. Chapel Street Infant School, Dalton, is looking to buy in meals from Dowdales School as it has no room for a kitchen.

Headteacher Helen Watt said: “It’s great pupils are getting free meals, but the timeframe for the changes has been short.”

Kitchenless Victoria Infant and Nursery School, Barrow, is still working on its plans for September. Cumbria County Council said on-site assessments are ongoing to establish the scope of work needed.

Schools minister David Laws said he was not complacent but insisted most schools were on track.

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