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With the February half-term holidays fast approaching, schools will not provide lunch parcels during the week-long break, the government said this morning, risking another backlash after it was forced into a U-turn last year.
Advice from the Department for Education (DfE) published this week states: "Schools do not need to provide lunch parcels or vouchers during the February half-term." Instead, it the guidance says there is already wider government support available to support families and children outside of term-time through the Covid winter grant scheme.
On Wednesday, Gavin Williamson did a U-turn on free school meal regulations, revealing that schools will be able to return to he nationwide government voucher programme from Monday.
While they will be given the option to continue using local services, the move has been put in place to help those parents across the country who have been complaining about dissatisfactory food parcels for their children.
The Education Secretary told the Education Committee in the Commons he would be bringing back the £15 voucher scheme from the start of next week, offering parents coupons which can be used in supermarkets to put towards a week's worth of food for their kids.
This decision came following backlash on Tuesday after an unnamed mother tweeted a photo of the tiny amount of food she was given to last her children ten days, as part of the government's pledge to provide free school meals.
#FreeSchoolMeals bag for 10 days:
2 days jacket potato with beans
8 single cheese sandwiches
2 days carrots
3 days apples
2 days soreen
3 days frubes
Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad.
Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest. pic.twitter.com/87LGUTHXEu
- Roadside Mum :tiger: (@RoadsideMum) January 11, 2021
The picture showed a loaf of bread, one bag of pasta, a can of baked beans, two malt loaf snacks and three snack size tubes of fromage frais, as well as some cheese, three apples, two carrots, one tomato, two baked potatoes and two bananas.
The "hampers" were sent out to kids eligible for free school meals, who aren't able to attend school as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Manchester United footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford also had his say on the scandal, retweeting several damming images onto his own page, and urging the government to act.
Rashford pushed the government to make a U-turn on the provision of free school meals in June, during the summer holidays - later landing an MBE for the social media rallying.
In autumn, Rashford once again succeeded in pushing the government to continue their free school meals programme into further school holidays.
The government's £170m Covid winter grant scheme is intended to support children during the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks this year, as well as during lockdown, when they should be in school.
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