Grant welcomes SIC commitment over free school meals issue

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has welcomed the SIC’s commitment to alleviate stigma over pupils receiving free school meals.

Last week it was revealed that fewer than half of Anderson High School pupils were receiving the free meals they were entitled to and the council pledged to find a solution to the issue.

Mrs Grant said she was troubled after concerns were raised with her that the AHS payment system meant pupils who received free meals were being singled out by handing over a card instead.

She was contacted by a concerned constituent who feared that some pupils were even refusing to have lunch because of the stigma.

Mrs Grant wrote to SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison who in turn accepted that the system was “not perfect” but was “working well as a temporary solution”.

Mrs Sandison said moves had been under way to purchase a cashless payment system but the procurement process was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Grant wrote back, saying she understood there were complex issues surrounding the problem. But she repeated her request for an interim solution which would remove the need for the card-carrying system without having to wait months for a new system to be purchased.

Mrs Grant also requested figures from the SIC which she said would have showed there were 67 AHS children who claimed free school meals when the actual number varied between 30 and 37 per day.

That was lower than the Scottish average of around 75 per cent, she said.

Mrs Grant said: “This is really concerning. If fewer than half of the children entitled to free school meals at the Anderson High School are actually claiming them then this needs to be looked at. I welcome a commitment by Maggie Sandison to find a solution.

“I have been assured that Mrs Sandison’s team leader of cleaning and catering has a meeting with the head teacher of the school next week and with the parent council the following week, with the focus of both will be to find a workable solution until we can move forward with the full cashless catering system.”


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