Plaid Cymru MS for South Wales West, Sioned Williams has praised Neath Port Talbot Council for its “successful implementation” of the first phase of the new free school meals policy, following a visit to Alltwen Primary school with NPT Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr Nia Jenkins.
As of this week, all reception-age children in NPT schools are receiving free school meals, thanks to Plaid Cymru’s Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government.
Sioned Williams, who is Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Social Justice and Equalities, praised “the hard work” of catering staff, teachers, headteachers and Neath Port Talbot Council “for delivering real and meaningful change for our children.”
Other primary school year groups in NPT are set to follow reception in a phased approach throughout the year. The offer will be extended to all Year 1 pupils after the October half term, ahead of the with the ambition of including Year 2 pupils as soon as possible afterwards.
Sioned Williams said:
“I had the pleasure today of visiting Alltwen Primary School at lunchtime, where I saw first hand the hard-work that the whole school, from catering staff to teaching assistants, teachers and headteacher, have put into ensuring the successful implementation of the first phase of the new free school meals policy, and I would like to thank them for delivering real change for our children and important support for their families.
“It’s great news that Neath Port Talbot are already considering extending the offer to all year one pupils after the October half term and to year two pupils as soon as possible after that, and have already committed to ensuring that all primary pupils will be eligible for a free school meal by 2024. I would like to thank Plaid Cymru Councillor for Alltwen Nia Jenkins, who is NPT’s Cabinet member for Education for helping to make this possible.”
“While the Westminster establishment fails to tackle the cost of living crisis, Wales is leading the way and doing what we can to support families.
“Thanks to Plaid Cymru’s influence on Welsh Government policy through the Co-operation Agreement, free meals will be rolled out across all primary schools in Wales from this week, starting with reception classes. In ensuring that no child has to go hungry, we are giving our children the best start in life, because hungry children cannot learn.
“However, Plaid Cymru has always said that we see the introduction of free school meals for primary school children as a first step towards free meals for all children. In the meantime, this will make a real difference to so many children ahead of what will be a very difficult winter for many families, and will give them a good start for the rest of their lives. This is something of which I’m immensely proud to be part.”
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.
“On top of the £2 million hardship relief scheme the Coalition agreed on in July, we have begun the work of implementing the roll-out of free school meals as quickly as possible.
“We understand that all families face challenges caused by the crisis, and we are committed to supporting families through this difficult time.”