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Agenda item

Progress Update on Take up of Free School Meals and Holiday Provision Review


The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services which presented Members with an update on the progress made against the recommendations from the Take up of Free School Meals and Holiday Provision review (for copy see file of minutes).


The Lead Officer for Health and Wellbeing presented the report and gave Members additional information relating to some of the recommendations outlined in the report (for copy see file of minutes).  She confirmed that one of the recommendations with regards to increasing FSM take up, could not be implemented due to the data protection regulations.  The parent NI number could not be included on school admission application forms, instead schools used an eligibility checking system that required them to obtain details from parents and hold them securely for FSM checking purposes only.


Some schools had not previously used the eligibility checking system and had received increased pupil premium funding.  One particular school had received an additional £25k.   Children on FSM as of 31 March 2018 were protected until end of Universal Credit roll out 2023.  A Local Authority Universal Credit Working Group had been set up to look at the impact of welfare changes.


All but one of Durham’s secondary schools used the biometric system and held termly meetings with catering support teams where staff had been advised that the screen should not be seen by other pupils.  Schools were being supported to change the location of tills and/or card readers should this be an issue and catering assessments would include a ‘spot check’ on card readers from Autumn 2018.


Mrs Norman added that children in Key Stage 1 were all eligible for FSM and parents were therefore unlikely to submit details.  Schools needed to be proactive in reminding parents to complete the checks to access pupil premium funding.


In response to the Senior Project Worker, Investing in Children, the Lead Officer for Health and Wellbeing confirmed that children had been consulted throughout the Review via regular meetings between School Nutrition and Action Groups and the School Meals Team.


Councillor Jewell queried whether there were hotspots in the County where parents were unlikely to take up FSM for cultural reasons or pride.  The Lead Officer for Health and Wellbeing confirmed that there were children eligible for FSM whose parents preferred to supply them with packed lunch, but ot was difficult to identify reasons.  The School Meals Team also held regular meetings with the contract provider and high drop out was considered.


The Strategic Manager, Think Family Services referred to the project ‘a day out not a hand out’ which had been evaluated by Northumbria University.  They had found that children who attended holiday activities which provided food, had eaten more fruit and vegetables and drank more water, but also been keen to learn and participate.  The holiday clubs had assisted to alleviate parental stress and provide children with a safe environment to play and learn new skills.  The programme was to be held in Durham over the next few years.  Events were hosted by Culture and Leisure and a range of community events and activities funded by AAPs were listed and publicised.


North Lanarkshire Council had developed the 365 programme which was aimed at primary pupils with FSM entitlement.  The Cabinet Portfolio Holders for Children and Young People’s Services and Social Inclusion and HR were visiting North Lanarkshire Council to see how the programme was set up.


The Head of Education spoke in relation to the effects of austerity on families.  He confirmed the fact that hunger affected children’s schoolwork and contributed to attainment issues.  He referred to the link between obesity and bad eating habits.  Both issues were difficult to assess, but should be a consideration during Ofsted inspections as it was was a difficult challenge without knowing what was happening in each individual school.




That the report be noted.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714