Question to the Department for Education:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department is taking steps to maintain a high nutritional value of school food, in the context of rises in the cost of food.
The Standards for school food are set out in the Requirements for School Food Regulations 2014 and are designed to ensure that schools provide children with healthy food and drink options, and to make sure that children receive the energy and nutrition they need throughout the school day. Schools have flexibility under the Standards to substitute food and regularly update and change menus. They may make changes if ingredients or meals are not readily available. There is no legal requirement that meals should be hot, but the Department expects all schools to routinely be offering a varied hot meal option to pupils.
The Department recognises the pressures that some schools and suppliers may be facing due to rising costs. The Department is holding regular meetings with other Government Departments and with food industry representatives on a variety of issues, including public sector food supplies.
This issue should be seen in the wider context of funding for schools. After the National Funding Formula (NFF) rates were set, the Department received additional funding from HM Treasury for core schools funding in 2022/2023, in recognition of cost pressures, which has been distributed through a schools supplementary grant.
Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) are funded through a direct grant to schools. In June 2022, the Government announced an increase of £2.41 per pupil in UIFSM funding. Ordinarily, the new funding rates take effect from the start of the academic year. The Department recognises that schools are under cost pressures and some suppliers may have been forced to increase prices and so these increases have been backdated.
The Chancellor set out in his Autumn Statement that schools will receive additional funding in both 2023/24 and 2024/25. This brings the core schools budget to a total of £58.8 billion in 2024/25, which is £2 billion greater than published in 2021. This £2 billion is new money, over and above what had been previously committed.