DINING rooms at the Capital’s most overcrowded primary schools will be expanded as staff prepare to introduce the Scottish Government’s free lunches programme.
Cramond, East Craigs, Towerbank and Sciennes primaries will enjoy the lion’s share of a cash injection worth £4.5 million, which has been earmarked for construction of major new hall space.
Smaller-scale works at several other schools – including purchasing additional seating and kitchen equipment – are also being funded.
Every year hundreds of thousands of extra lunches will be served up to hungry youngsters – in P3 and below – when the flagship free meals policy comes into force next month.
The roll-out had sparked fears of chaos at crowded primaries where tiny dining halls are forcing teachers to stagger lunch hours – with pupils often having to eat from their knees.
Today, parents welcomed news that ministers have stepped in with new money to ensure free meals can be accommodated at every school in Edinburgh.
Claire Wheeler, chair at Sciennes Primary parent council, said: “Space is a real issue.
“The dining hall extension is essential for the school to be able to cope with the increase in pupils having school dinners.
“There will be a challenging period prior to the new facility becoming available, during which time the school is having to put in interim measures to cope with the number of children having school dinners in a very restricted area.”
Detailed blueprints have been released showing how the city council will create much-needed new space at each of the most under-pressure primaries.
Cramond Primary – which uses a single hall measuring 131 sq m for dining, PE and assembly – will see a new gym created in the middle of its courtyard.
Youngsters at East Craigs Primary are also likely to benefit from a new hall, which will be constructed as an extension to the main school site.
Sciennes Primary pupils are set to be hosted in a prefabricated building offering extra dining accommodation, storage and a new room to serve meals.
And children at Towerbank will eat lunch in an extended dining hall erected to the east of the school’s existing Victorian building.
City chiefs have hailed the new investment and said it was the fruit of “robust” negotiations with the Scottish Government.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We’ve done incredibly well. We’ve been quite clear that we require that level of funding [and] we’re delighted that they have accepted our arguments.”
Scottish ministers said the introduction of free school meals for P1-3 pupils across Edinburgh and the rest of the country would herald a “new era” in Scottish education.
Learning minister Dr Alasdair Allan said: “This government is proud to be implementing free school meals for all P1-3 pupils.
“Free school meals will also play an important role in improving attainment in schools, through offering children healthy and nutritious lunches that will help them achieve their best in class.”