Monday, 9 July 2012

'Raw Deal' for college students

16-18 year olds from a disadvantaged background who study at a Further Education or Sixth Form College do not receive free meals at lunchtime whereas their counterparts in school sixth forms, Academies, Free Schools and University Technical Colleges do receive free meals.

I visited Winstanley College on Fri, 6th July to meet with staff and students who are calling on the Government to extend free meals to students at College as part of the No Free Lunch? campaign.

I believe that there are three reasons why dealing with the anomaly is even more urgent now than it was in the past;

1. The removal of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) - an initiative that transformed the lives of individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It had a direct impact on attendance, retention, achievement and progression. The removal of EMA has exposed not being able to access free meals even more than before.
2. With the raising of the participation age, all students will now progress on beyond age 16
3. The advent of academies, free schools and university technical colleges - If a new post-16 free school or post-16 academy is set up, it can offer free school meals, but a 16-to-19 sixth-form college or further education college cannot

This is clearly unfair and needs to change. Eligibility for free meals should be based on need, not on where you choose to study.

This anomaly needs to be addressed. The Government acknowledges this so now is the time for it to act and put an end to this raw deal for students at Winstanley College.

Jo Bailey, Principal of Winstanley College said, “All young people should be able to make a free and fair choice about where they study post-16.  The provision of a hot, nutritious lunch-time meal should be available to all students from a disadvantaged background, not just those staying on at school. We are campaigning to end this injustice to such students at Winstanley, and at other colleges.”

79% of Colleges agree that free meals in colleges for 16-18 year olds would encourage participation.
You can pledge your support for this campaign by signing the petition and by using the hashtag #nofreelunch when you tweet about this issue.

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