CHILDREN at 48 primary schools around Buckinghamshire did not receive a free hot meal today, the county council has confirmed.
All state-educated infants are now entitled to free hot school dinners under plans announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last year.
But a survey published by the Local Government Association last month revealed 47 percent of councils quizzed said they had not received enough money from the Government to fund the project.
Buckinghamshire was highlighted as being behind with the roll-out, with the county council confirming 48 of the 167 school eligible for the scheme could only provide a cold packed lunch to pupils on Thursday.
Cllr Bill Bendyshe-Brown, BCC’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Education said: “We are delighted to say that all eligible children will have access to a free school meal from September.
“However, given the timescale and complexity of this operation we will be providing a sandwich lunch for 48 schools at the commencement of this term with the aim of meeting our full commitment of providing universal hot meals by mid-term or earlier.”
Cllr Bendyshe-Brown said when the plan was announced there were 66 schools around the county which had no provision for hot meals and the £1.3 capital funding “was not enough” to set up a sufficient number of food hubs in time for the start of the new school year.
But he said the council secured a ‘superhub’ which can cater for up to 5,000 meals every day with 20 remaining schools making their own arrangements with Government funding.
Little Spring School in Chesham was one of the schools unable to provide a hot meal as a supplier dropped out over the summer and their kitchen is not big enough to cater for demand.
Annie Sweet, the school’s office manager, said: “We’ve already said to the county council that to do things adequately we need some help.
“The Government haven’t given the county time to get everything organised. By the time they realised the enormity of it all, they weren’t able to get it done.
“It’s a brilliant initiative, but the resources haven’t been put in place.”
Prestwood Infant School pupils in years one and two received their first hot meals at noon today.
Headteacher Nicola Raher said; “We’re fortunate, it’s very exciting.
“We will have one teacher eating with the children every day to teach them how to use a knife and fork and extra staff to help the children. It’s all about independence and creating a social experience.”
The DoE said it had provided “significant financial support” to schools, including £1bn over the next two years to cover the cost of providing meals.
A further £150m of additional capital had also been provided to help schools and local authorities upgrade facilities, with an extra £22.5m allocated specifically to help smaller schools.