Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 6:27 pm, 16th June 2020

I congratulate the Government on agreeing to free school meals over the summer holidays and I congratulate Marcus Rashford on the best goal of his life so far—I can only say that his mum must be so proud of him today—but please do not let anybody think that this is just about food over the summer.

The average free school meals child starts school behind their contemporaries in class. The average free school meal child at year 6 can be up to 18 months behind the other kids in their class. When they start secondary school in year 7, they go backwards from year 6. Yet these children will have spent six months out of school, with 700,000 of them not doing any work—700,000 of them with no access to the internet and no access to a tablet or a computer to do any work at all. The size of the crisis in our schools is huge.

If we are absolutely honest, many of these children will not be going back to full-time schooling in September and will not get the additional small group classes they need. That is why I am asking everybody in the Chamber today to support our Bill to get every child who is on free school meals access to the internet and access to a device that allows them to do that—to give them a step towards employment in the future and to make sure that their families have access to the same education and the same ledger as everybody else.