£70 million in funding will support the next stage in the expansion of free school meals in all primary schools in Wales, the Minister for Education has announced today.
The introduction of universal free school meals for primary school pupils is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru. All primary school children and more than 6,000 nursery-age pupils attending a maintained school will be eligible for free school meals by 2024.
To date nearly 5 million additional free meals have been served across Wales since September 2022.
The next phase of the expansion to provide free school meals to all pupils in primary school will begin in September 2023, with the offer growing to include the majority of learners in years three and four. The programme will then expand further in April 2024, reaching years five and six. Where local authorities are able to reach these year groups ahead of these milestones they have been funded to do so.
£260m has been committed to implement the programme over three years. This included £60m of capital funding for local authorities invested over the last two years to support improvements to school kitchen facilities, including purchasing equipment and updating digital systems.
Local Authorities across Wales have made excellent progress in phase one. The first year of delivery has focused on building the capacity for schools to deliver the increased offer. These efforts have ensured a swift rollout of the offer during the first phase, with the majority of learners across Wales in Reception, Year one and Year two benefitting from the offer of a free school meal since the start of the summer term.
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said: “We are working at pace to ensure that every primary school child benefits from a nutritional school meal and that no child goes hungry.
“We know how difficult it is currently for families during the cost of living crisis. Universal free school meals provide significant financial help to families, while providing a nutritional meal to help children concentrate on learning.
“I would like to thank local authority teams across Wales who are working hard to rollout universal free school meals quickly.”
Plaid Cymru’s Designated Member, Siân Gwenllian, said “We have delivered millions of free school meals since the start of the rollout of this life changing programme and one that is needed now more than ever. I am delighted we can announce further details of the expansion of universal free school meals in all primary schools in Wales by 2024, showing how co-operative working is making a real difference to people’s lives. We are making sure no child goes hungry, while also providing help for families during this cost-of-living crisis. I want to thank our local authorities and schools helping us achieve this.”