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Crawley confusion as parents wonder if their child will get a free school meal

A new proposal is set for debate tomorrow on free school meals for children. We look at what the proposal is and who it will affect.

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The government say that under new welfare plans the number of children who will receive a free school meal will increase.

The opposition, including a charity, The Children’s Society, say that in-fact the plans are flawed as it will mean parents having to work longer hours as too many of them will fall outside of the criteria required to be eligible for free meals.

So who is right and what is the reality of the proposed new plans?

Currently any child whose parent is out of work or works less than 16hours a week (this increases to 24hrs if they are a couple) is entitled to a free school meal.

The new plans would be an addition to the current Universal Credit being rolled out across the UK.

Whilst the current system is based on the number of hours worked, the proposal is to change this to reflect the actual amount earned by a parent(s).

The proposal is a child will no longer be able to have a free school meal if the family earns more than £7,400 a year.

Current estimations say that it costs a parent around £400 a year per child for school meals, not a small amount BUT isn’t changing the system from an hourly calculation to an earning one more fairly based?

The Children’s Society say no stating this change “creates a huge ‘cliff edge’ for low income families as they try to take on more work – they will actually be worse off overall if they push themselves above the earnings limit and lose their free school meals.

Crawley MP Henry Smith said about the proposals:

Under new Government welfare plans around 50,000 more children nationally will receive a free school meal, compared to the previous benefits system. This policy will protect every child receiving free school meals when it is introduced and every child who gains eligibility before the end of Universal Credit’s roll-out.”

Transitional protections are proposed so that nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit.

Children who become eligible under the new threshold after 1st April 2018 will continue to receive free school meals until the end of the rollout of Universal Credit even if their circumstances change.

There are anomalies and disincentives in the current system, where free school meals entitlement is based on how many hours you work, rather than how much you earn.

Henry went on to comment;

By moving to earnings-based criteria, free school meals are being targeted towards the families that need them most. The introduction of Universal Credit transforms the benefit system by making work pay. It removes the major cliff edges in the legacy system such as the 16 hour rule, which means that families can keep more of what they earn.

But some local councillors have hit back including Crawley Councillor Michael Jones who tweeted ‘Can the Tories sink any lower?’:

From an image point of view any time words such as ‘children’, ‘free’, ‘poverty’ are banded together there is major concern and clearly there is an urgent need to ensure no child is left starving.

With less and less money available to subsidise families and more and more children suffering changes are obviously due.

BUT, what isn’t clear is whilst both sides have good arguments for their case neither side seems to have a real solution that will ensure parents are not left worrying about what the final outcome will be.

Steve Verrell will be discussing this on his breakfast show on Runway Radio tomorrow morning from 7am. Link to tune in below.

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Education

Crawley school celebrates science win with Ardingly College and their solar car

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Ifield Community College and Ardingly College have won the Times Educational Supplement Science, Technology and Engineering Team of the Year.  

Lead judge Jo Foster said that the project was “absolutely exemplary”. She added:

“From success in international racing events to effective outreach to other schools both at home and abroad, this project goes the extra mile.

Ardingly Ifield Solar has been running for nearly a decade educating hundreds of students in sustainable mobility technologies by designing, building, and racing solar powered cars.

It is a true collaboration between Ifield Community & Ardingly Colleges. In addition, the project works closely with 33 companies and three universities bringing the latest technologies right into the classroom.  

The team’s accolades include driving the solar powered car they made 3000km across Australia, outperforming  Cambridge and Stanford universities in the Bridgestone World Challenge; and racing in France and Belgium in Solar endurance races and being awarded a special ‘Spirit of Albi’ trophy whilst there.

The team were planning on raising awareness of sustainable transport nationally by travelling the length of the UK, but this has been postponed until August 2021 due to current Covid-19 restrictions. This has not stopped the team, who continue to meet twice a week virtually, and are planning their next project: a flat pack solar powered vehicle(a replacement Tuk Tuk).

Miss Sumpter, teacher at Ifield Community College says:

‘I am so happy the team has been recognised for their enthusiasm and dedication to STEM. It is a pleasure to be part of this project, and I am immensely proud of everyone involved. I hope the impact of this project will continue to influence STEM careers.’

For more information on their project, please visit their website: https://www.ardinglysolar.com

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