Infant school children to receive free school meals

The Coalition will fund schools in England to provide every infant school child with a hot meal at lunchtime. Credit: PA Wire

Every child at infant school in England will receive a free school meal from next September, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

The Coalition will spend £600 million to provide every child in reception, year one and year two, from the ages of four to seven, with a hot and healthy meal at lunchtime.

Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England will also be eligible for free school meals from next September.

ITV News' Deputy Political Editor, Chris Ship, reports:

Read: Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship: Free school meals show the Lib Dems' influence in the Coalition

Families will save £400 a year per child as a result of the Coalition's plan to offer free school meals to all infant schoolchildren in England.

Nick Clegg said the new policy was the first step in fulfilling his ambition to provide free school meals to all primary school children.

Mr Clegg said: "For the Liberal Democrats, this is a first step: my ambition is to provide free school meals for all primary school children. Another reason we want to get into Government again next time round."

The Deputy Prime Minister said the measure was aimed at helping financially-stretched families but will also have education and health benefits.

A report published in July called for the introduction of free school meals, suggesting the meals could substantially improve academic performance.

The School Food Plan, conducted by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, found that, in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, students were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere.

The co-authors praised the Government for introducing the scheme:

The co-authors praised the Government for introducing the scheme:

Children's charity, 4Children, welcomed the announcement, saying it would "make a real difference for children" and financially stretched families.