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Suffolk councils work to boost pupil premium and free school meals

PUBLISHED: 17:17 16 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:17 16 May 2018

Cabinet member for education Gordon Jones
Picture: SIMON PARKER

Cabinet member for education Gordon Jones Picture: SIMON PARKER

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Hundreds of families have signed up for free school meals following a link-up between Suffolk county council and three other authorities.

Jack Abbott Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILJack Abbott Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

And that has given schools in part of Suffolk a government cash boost of millions of pounds a year – now the county is looking to extend the scheme across the county.

Free school meals can save families £400 a year – and they can also give schools a cash boost because for every youngster that is eligible they get an extra £1,300 a year in Pupil Premium.

The county has linked up with the Suffolk Revenue Partnership, which handles housing benefit claims to Ipswich Borough Council, Babergh, and Mid Suffolk.

This has enabled the county to target families on housing benefit who are likely to also get universal credit and be eligible for free school meals.

Since the link-up started at the end of last year, it is estimated there have been 800 extra families making claims.

Now the county has had exploratory discussions with East Suffolk and West Suffolk council officials to try to get them to also encourage claims which could boost schools in their areas.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, said: “As a result of the rollout of Universal Credit, new rules regarding eligibility for free school meals were introduced.

“Working collaboratively with our district and borough colleagues, we have succeeded in identifying pupils who had not previously claimed for free school meals, but were entitled to them.

“This will provide our schools with an additional £3 million of pupil premium funding for eligible pupils to support them with their education.”

Labour raised concerns about free school meals earlier this year. The party’s education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “I’m pleased that Suffolk County Council is finally responding to an issue I highlighted back in March and clearly it is welcome that families and schools may now benefit from this collaborative work.

“However, it is worrying that they have not been routinely identifying those who are eligible for free school meals.

“This work is a step in the right in the right direction but it must now be extended across all parts of Suffolk by engaging with the Anglia Revenues Partnership (Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal).”

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