To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department has plans to provide support or extra resources to local authorities and schools to mitigate potential pressures on public food supplies due to rising energy, food and labour costs; and what steps his Department is taking to help ensure that that major suppliers can fulfil existing and new contacts for school meal provision.
The provision of free school meals (FSM) to children who are eligible for them is of the utmost importance to this government. The department recognises the cost pressures that some schools and suppliers may be facing, and as usual are holding regular meetings with other government departments and with food industry representatives, covering a variety of issues including public sector food supplies.
Schools fund benefit-related FSM from their core funding which they receive through the schools block of the dedicated schools grant and is derived from the national funding formula (NFF). For the 2022/23 financial year, the funding schools attract through the ‘FSM factor’ in the NFF is increasing to £470 per eligible pupil.
In recognition of cost pressures, after the NFF rates were set, the department received additional funding from HM Treasury for core schools funding in the 2022/23 financial year, which we distributed through a schools supplementary grant. As a result of this additional funding, core schools funding for mainstream schools is increasing by £2.5 billion in the 2022/23 financial year, compared to last year. We have also given schools the autonomy to agree individual contracts with school food suppliers and caterers, using their increased core funding.
On Tuesday 14 June my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced an increase to the per pupil meal rate for Universal Infant Free School Meals from £2.34 to £2.41. This will be backdated to April 2022.