Extra cash gives Merton children greater opportunity

Merton schools are set to benefit from extra cash from central government with an additional £58 available for each child in the borough receiving free school meals.

The newly available money from the government’s pupil premium scheme will mean that, on average, schools across Merton will see a 13% rise based on free school meal eligibility. This means an extra £58 for the year, rising from £430 to £488 per eligible child. In total, Merton schools will now be receiving £1,874,544.

Although, nationally, the number of families taking advantage of the free meals has fallen, Merton Council’s intensive campaigning has resulted in a 14.7% increase in take-up from January 2010 to January 2011 across all schools in the borough.

The council is continuing to encourage parents to check their eligibility for free school meals and sign up. The greater the number of Merton parents who register their eligibility, the more money Merton schools will receive from the government to spend on resources such as new computers and books as well as recruiting more teachers and teaching assistants.

Currently, over 3,435 pupils (latest statistics available are for May 2011) take advantage of free school meals in Merton, but the council estimates there could be more young people who may be able to benefit from the service.

Merton Council cabinet member for education Councillor Peter Walker said: “We welcome the extra funding that has become available, as it will help those particular children in the borough who may need extra financial help to make sure they have access to the educational tools the need. In addition to this new funding, we still want as many eligible families as possible to benefit from the free school meals, as they will be able to save themselves hundreds of pounds each year while ensuring their children eat healthily at school. Registering eligibility for free school meals also means you help the whole school too, as the school receives money for each child who is eligible.”