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Number of Scottish children receiving free school meals triples in a decade

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The number of primary aged pupils in Scotland receiving free schools meals has tripled in the last decade, saving working families hundreds of pounds a year, according to new analysis.

The latest figures, released by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe), show that over 53% of primary pupils were registered for free school meals in 2019 – a substantial jump from 2009 when just 16.7% of kids were registered.

The SPICe analysis has also estimated that families are saving more than £450 a year for each child, after the Scottish government chose to extend free school meals for more pupils across Scotland.

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The average price of a paid-for school meal is £2.38. Per school year – 190 days – free school meals would save families around £452.20 per child.

In 2015, the SNP Government introduced free school meals for all pupils in primary 1 to 3 – with evidence showing initiatives like this can help close the education attainment gap while improving the performance of children from low income backgrounds.

The number of secondary pupils registered for free schools has also steadily increased in the last decade – rising from 12.3% in 2009 to 15% in 2019.

Welcoming the news, SNP MSP Clare Adamson said: “Free school meals are an important part of ensuring that every child gets the best start in life.

“Guaranteeing our youngest pupils a healthy meal during the school day helps them to learn – but it’s also a huge financial help to working families.

“This policy has been a huge relief for many families at a time where household budgets are tight – saving parents over £450 a year for each child.

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“The evidence is clear that free school meals can help close the attainment gap in education, and that’s why this SNP Government has put this policy at the heart of our ambition to build a better Scotland.

“There’s still a lot to do in reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland – but universal benefits like free school meals for our youngest pupils, free prescriptions and free higher education are helping keep more money in the pockets of hard working families.”

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