NPT Council congratulated for ‘speedy’ progress in delivering additional free school meals

Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams welcomed today’s announcement that £70 million in funding will support the next stage in the expansion of free school meals in all primary schools in Wales, thanks to the Co-operation Agreement between Plaid and the Welsh Government, and praised NPT Council for its “speedy” expansion of free school meals in the county borough after visiting a local school.

Neath Port Talbot, under the control of a coalition of Plaid Cymru and Independent Councillors, is one of the local authorities who are succeeding in progressing the rollout of free school meals the fastest.

Last month saw the expansion of free school meals provision in Neath Port Talbot schools to include children in years 3 and 4.  As a result, an additional 1,908 children in the county borough are now receiving free school meals.

Sioned Williams MS saw this policy in action during a recent visit to Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera Bro Dur with Plaid Cymru Councillor and NPT Cabinet member for Education, Nia Jenkins.

Sioned Williams, South Wales West MS and Plaid spokesperson on Social Justice and Equalities said:

“I would like to thank all those who have helped ensure the speedy and successful implementation of the new free school meals policy in Neath Port Talbot.

“It was wonderful to see the difference that this important policy is making to the wellbeing of pupils of Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera Bro Dur during my visit there with Plaid Cymru Councillor and NPT Cabinet member for Education Nia Jenkins.

“As Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on Social Justice and Equalities, since being elected I consistently called on the Welsh Government to introduce free school meals to all children. And thanks to Plaid Cymru’s involvement in the Cooperation Agreement, we are now seeing the implementation of a crucial first step towards achieving this, by offering free school meals to all primary school children. 

“Today’s announcement that £70 million will go towards the next stage in the expansion of free primary school meals demonstrates the positive difference that Plaid Cymru makes in people’s lives.

“But knowing that the pupils enjoying their hot nutritious meals in the primary department of Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera Bro Dur will be potentially faced with hunger again when they move to Year 7 of the exact same school, illustrated to me the importance of expanding this provision to secondary age pupils also.

“Plaid Cymru believes that every child must be given the same opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in life.” 

From September 2023, most Welsh Local Authorities areas will provide school meals for children in years 3 and 4. 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 in Wales 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.

As part of Plaid Cymru’s Cooperation Agreement with the Welsh Government, every primary school pupil in Wales will be eligible for free school meals by 2024. 

More than £1.5m is being invested in improving school kitchens and updating equipment in NPT to ensure all primary children can eventually have access to a free, healthy and nutritious meal at school.

Sioned Williams visited Alltwen Primary School in September of 2022, when free school meals were first extended to all reception-age children in NPT. 

Nia Jenkins, NPTCBC Cabinet Member for Education and Plaid Cymru Councillor said:

“In response to the current cost-of-living crisis, the council is doing everything we can to ensure no child in the county borough goes hungry and I am proud we have begun the work of implementing the roll-out of free school meals in primary as quickly as possible.”

Parents that receive benefits that entitle their child to a free school meal are still being encouraged to register for a free school meal if they haven’t already done so as they may be entitled to a School Essentials Grant (SEG).

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