The new school term started last week and so did the Lib Dem policy of providing every child in infant school in England with a free school meal.
If you are one of the 13,000 Manchester parents that have a 5, 6 or 7 year old child at school and used to pay for their school dinners, this will save you about £400 a year per child.
Manchester Council’s catering company, Manchester Fayre, have taken on 130 new staff to cope with the extra demand created because of these reforms.
This is one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation.
A healthy meal at lunchtime for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will raise school standards and help families save money.
And it would never have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Government, fighting to cut the cost of living.
Universal free school meals have been shown to work in the pilot schemes. Providing children with nutritious and delicious meals gives them the fuel they need to excel both inside and outside the classroom.
It also makes them more likely to opt for fruit and vegetables at lunchtime rather than junk food such as crisps and chocolate
It also does much to tackle child poverty. Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, an independent, non- aligned charity, said:
“The extension of free school meals to all infants in the country is a positive step in the fight against child poverty.
Our analysis shows that about 160,000 more children in poverty will be getting this vital support as a result of this historic move.
It shows that the Government recognises the hardship that thousands of families are facing.”
Nationally, 1.5million children will benefit. Some have criticised the plan, as not every school will be ready with the facilities to provide a hot meal on day one. However, 98.5% of school were ready, with 99.7% ready by next spring.
This proposal, together with the pupil premium which has led to an extra £20m to Manchester schools, are two policies of which I am very proud.