Free School Meals: Further Education

Education written question – answered on 11th July 2012.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Labour, Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough

To ask the Secretary of State for Education pursuant to the contribution of the Minister of State for Schools of 13 June 2012, Official Report, column 94WH, on free school meals (colleges), how his Department estimated the cost of extending the provision of free meals to disadvantaged 16 to 18 year olds who study at further education or sixth form colleges.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

holding answer 6 July 2012

In my answer of 13 June 2012, Hansard, column 94WH, I quoted a figure of between £35 million and £70 million as the cost of extending the provision of free meals to disadvantaged 16 to 18-year-olds who study at further education or sixth form colleges.

In his letter to the Secretary of State for Education dated 13 April, Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), applied a figure of £32 million as the cost of extending free meals to eligible students in FE and sixth form colleges. The AoC 'No Free Lunch?' campaign quotes a figure of £38 million.

Departmental estimates are based on a number of factors, including the current cost of providing free meals to school sixth form students, which would give an upper cost threshold of £70 million. For the purposes of the debate, my estimate assumed that the actual cost of extending free meals would fall between the AoC figures and the higher cost of £70 million. I did not give a precise departmental estimate because the cost is reliant on a number of assumptions which need to be tested further.

The factors which are likely to contribute to the actual departmental estimate are the costs of providing school meals; the number of 16 to 18-year-old students who were known to be eligible for free school meals at age 15; and the proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds in school sixth forms relative to those in further education and training.

We are continuing to determine the best factors on which to base our assumptions.

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