Ulster Unionist MLA for South Belfast, Michael McGimpsey, has called on the Minister for Education to look again at his proposal to change the funding formula for free school meals that will see some schools losing out financially to the benefit of others.
In a statement Mr McGimpsey said, “I firmly believe in the virtues of free school meals and would support all measures that increase the uptake. The benefits of free school meals for children from socially deprived backgrounds have been proven time and time again. Not only do they have a positive impact on the health of the children but they help to improve the educational achievement of these children.”
“While I welcome the department finally recognising the failures within the current funding system, their proposal that will see funding removed from one school and given to another is not acceptable. Taking the food out of the mouth of one child to feed another is not acceptable. Additional finance must be found by the department to fund free school meals for all children who are entitled to them.”
“Using this year’s figures as a benchmark it is clear that when the department’s changes are actually brought in from next April the cuts will be severe. The modelling for this year’s budgets reveal that schools affected would have included Rosetta Primary losing £10,941, Stranmillis Primary losing £11,749, Finaghy Primary losing £12,904 and Forge Integrated Primary losing £6,195.”
“Whilst I do believe that not enough is being done to tackle social disadvantage, as demonstrated by the correlation between disadvantage and education attainment, by adopting an approach of robbing Peter to pay Paul nothing is going to achieved.”
In conclusion Mr McGimpsey said, “I would urge all parents, schools and communities to respond to the consultation on the latest proposals as they cannot be allowed to proceed in their current form. The Minister must act immediately and find adequate funding to support free school meals for all children who need them. It is the Minister’s responsibility to ensure no child or school suffers financially and is left behind as a result of his departments actions.”