School meals - the fight goes on
SCHOOL governors and headteachers last nightvowed to continue to fight against Essex County Council's decision to scrap its school meals service.Council leader Lord Hanningfield told schools in mid December the council would no longer provide a school dinners service from April 2 because it was not economical.
SCHOOL governors and headteachers last nightvowed to continue to fight against Essex County Council's decision to scrap its school meals service.
Council leader Lord Hanningfield told schools in mid December the council would no longer provide a school dinners service from April 2 because it was not economical. As a concession, he later announced the county would provide £1 million this year to cushion the costs, especially for smaller schools, in doing their own catering.
The decision angered headteachers, governors and parents, partly because they were given just three months to come up with an alternative and also because they were not consulted beforehand.
After a meeting at Colchester town hall last nightit was decided a delegation of headteachers, governors and catering staff should go to County Hall and meet Lord Hanningfield and education cabinet member Iris Pummell in person to put forward their concerns and ask questions.
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The meeting was chaired by Colchester Borough Council politcal rivals, Tim Young and Terry Sutton, and addressed by the chair of Essex Primary Heads Association, Ruth Brock.
Mark Jeffcock, a governor at North Primary School and Nursery, Colchester, said: "I do feel we should make practical demands. We should think about things we want to ask for, like requesting the £1 million be made a permanent part of the budget."
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Labour county councillor Julie Young, said: "I think the county council have a moral responsibility not to leave this matter with headteachers and governors. I will fight within the county council for the continuation of the group contract and I urge people to continue to fight. I want equity and a hot meal for every school child in Essex."
Several schools said they would be closing their kitchens on April 2 and providing sandwiches only next term. Some said they would be looking into implementing a hot service in the future, one headteacher said his school would continue with hot meals, but at a loss.
The business development manager for Scolarest, the current school meals caterers in north Essex, said they were willing to extend contracts until the end of the summer term, but had not been provided with information about numbers of schools they requested from the council.
Lord Hanningfield declined to attend the meeting, but a letter he sent to the Prime Minister was read out, which said the current school meals service is bad value for money and that schools would be given extensive support to provide their own meals.