Family & Education

Plea to Mayor of London to extend free school meals to Charedi children

Orthodox charity wants scheme to apply to independent schools in Hackney


A school canteen chef serves children during their lunch break at St Mary's RC Primary School, in Battersea, south London, on November 29, 2022. - With UK inflation hovering around the highest level in four decades, triggering a cost-of-living crisis, children are increasingly bringing cheaper food from home, in some cases donated. Children in England whose families are deemed by the government to be the poorest are entitled to a free school meal. At 48 percent of pupils, St Mary's has one of the highest proportions in Britain entitled to a taxpayer-funded lunch. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Mayor of London has been asked to extend his emergency free schools meals fund next year to independent Strictly Orthodox schools in Hackney.

Pupils in state primary schools in England already enjoy free school meals from reception to year two.

But the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has announced a one-off fund of £130 million that will also cover older primary children as families wrestle with soaring living costs.

Writing to the mayor’s office, Motty Pinter, communal affairs director of the Interlink Foundation, which advises Charedi charities, appealed for Strictly Orthodox children to be included.

The vast majority of Charedi schools in the north London borough are independent and rely on donations, with many families on low incomes.

Mr Pinter said the mayor’s fund was “a fantastic initiative that will go a long way in supporting families and improving the lives of young children in London”.

However, there was “a sizable child population that has not been included,” he said.

“Charedi children are generally educated in independent schools due to their parents’ religious beliefs. In Hackney, 30 per cent of the child population are Charedi and are being educated in independent schools.

“It is imperative that we work together to ensure that every child in London, regardless of their background and the school they attend, has access to nutritious food and can benefit from this scheme.”

A spokesman for the mayor told the JC that the programme was “consistent with the government’s existing funding of meals, as it will cover state-funded primary schools, special schools and pupil referral units, including faith schools, but not private schools.”

The Mayor, he added, would continue to “do all he can to support Londoners of all backgrounds affected by the cost of living crisis, including funding more than 10 million meals during school holidays and at weekends over the next year through a partnership with The Felix Project and Mayor’s Fund for

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