Free school meals show Lib Dems' influence in the Coalition

Every child at infant school in England will get free lunch meals from next September. Credit: PA Wire

The trouble with announcing a new education policy from your conference in Scotland is that the policy does not affect anyone who lives in Scotland.

That was a position in which Nick Clegg found himself today as he hailed a Liberal Democrat move to give every infant school child in England a free school meal.Schools dinners are currently available free of charge to those on the lowest incomes.But from next September, all 1.5 million state school children in Years Reception, 1 and 2 (ages four to seven) will have the meal provided by the government.

School dinners cost around £2.00 to £2.50 each day.

Across a 38-week school year the savings could add up to more than four hundred pounds for parents.

It's the big policy announcement from the Lib Dems at their conference this week.

And it fits hand in glove with the story they have been trying to tell from day one: that the Lib Dems are having an effect in the coalition and voters should understand that a Conservative-only government would have different priorities.

We had to travel South of the Border today to find pupils and parents who will be affected by this change.

The headteacher at Brook Street Primary in Carlisle, Janet Ditchburn, told us it will help her pupil's parents - especially those who are currently earning just above the threshold for free meals.

The Coalition will fund the move. Credit: PA Wire

For those parents, she told us, they will no longer have to chose between paying for school meals and paying for a school trip.

But the local authority which runs the schools in Carlisle, Cumbria County Council, has tried to provide a similar scheme before.

In 2010, the council planned to pilot free school meals for all primary school children - but the funding from central government was pulled immediately after the general election due to coalition spending cuts.