Hot meals still off the menu at Midlothian schools for some pupils

Hot meals are still not being served to older children in schools across Midlothian despite being reintroduced by neighbouring councils, it has been revealed.
Midlothian West councillor Kelly Parry (SNP)Midlothian West councillor Kelly Parry (SNP)
Midlothian West councillor Kelly Parry (SNP)

Councillor Kelly Parry (SNP) described the situation in the county as “quite appalling” as she said only children in P1-4 are receiving a hot school lunch. And she said the pressure it put on families to find packed lunch items as supermarket shelves lay empty was unacceptable.

Midlothian Council’s executive director Kevin Anderson told a virtual meeting of the local authority’s performance review committee that the situation is being reviewed weekly.

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He said plans had been in place to reintroduce a hot meal option across all ages from next month but added: “It is restricted to a large extent by the school estate and social distancing. There are some restrictions that we still want to apply.”

Cllr Parry said most other local authorities have reintroduced hot meals for pupils in their schools. East Lothian Council reopened its dining halls on September 6, giving pupils access to hot food.

Cllr Parry said: “I do not understand why we are not reintroducing hot school meals, I think it is appalling.

“We have all been to the supermarkets recently and seen empty shelves,” she added, as she said the pressures put on families who are seeing benefits cut and furlough coming to an end is huge.

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She said: “To have to go round the supermarkets looking for packed lunch items might seem a small thing but it has a big impact.”

A council spokesman said: “While children up to and including P4s are getting hot meals in Midlothian primary schools, P5s to P7s are bringing in packed lunches. Families with children in this age group eligible for free school meals are getting a BACS payment from the council paid into their bank accounts to cover the cost of the lunches.

“The situation is under weekly review and is driven by the need to follow government coronavirus guidance for schools. For example, meals are eaten in classrooms to prevent large numbers of children congregating in lunch halls. We realise this is not ideal but we feel continuing packed lunches for the older primary school pupils remains the best way of helping prevent any further local spikes in the short term.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Midlothian Council’s current advice for parents states that all pupils currently eat their lunch in their classrooms due to Covid restrictions.