Increased demand for free school meals to cost council £36k

Councillors need to spend more on school dinner staff
Councillors need to spend more on school dinner staff

MORE PUPILS RECEIVING free lunches at Moray’s primary schools has prompted a request to councillors that they back the recruitment of additional catering staff.

The move will come at a meeting of the children and young people’s services committee on Wednesday, when councillors will be told that a national scheme providing primary one to three pupils with a free lunch has resulted in “huge demand”.

Councillors will also be told that supervisors put in specifically to help school canteens have come under increasing strain since the move by the Scottish Government, which has seen 77% of pupils in Moray eligible for the free meals taking up the offer.

Cost to the council of employing the required additional staff is estimated at £36,200 – and council officials are warning that without that there is a danger that pupils will not be fed within allocated times, adding that could have a knock-on effect on education.

“Young children in particular often require extra help at the servery with staff taking their trays to tables and with clearing up,” the report says, adding: “It was anticipated that schools would meet the increases in demand through changes in operational practice, such as extra sittings, additional serveries and the use of additional spaces.

“However, due to the popularity of the initiative staff are struggling to serve, assist and clear up during allocated times.”

The Scottish Government provided additional funding to Moray Council to administer the scheme which was introduced at the start of the year. However, this was taken up in covering the extra cost of lunches.