In a stew over new Falkirk meal plan

Packed lunches could be a thing of the past for young pupils when free school meals are introduced
Packed lunches could be a thing of the past for young pupils when free school meals are introduced

Plans to offer free school meals to all P1-P3 pupils are dishing up a major heachache for council education chiefs.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced that from January every child in the first three years at primary school will be eligible to receive a free lunch.

Currently Falkirk Council has around 1000 P1-P3 pupils who meet the criteria for the free meal with 90 per cent taking up the option.

The local authority’s school meal service serves up lunch to around 3000 youngsters in these year groups.

But this could rise to 5600 if all P1-P3 children opt to have the lunch provided.

Officials are estimating between 90-95 per cent will have the free meal.

The government is giving Falkirk Council £2.283 million to meet the costs of the meals over the next two years, members of the education executive will hear next Tuesday.

However, a report will also highlight the “significant challenges” being faced in finding the space in school kitchens to produce the additional meals, getting enough staff and equipment to make the food and having space in schools for pupils to sit down to eat.

Councillors will hear there are “significant challenges surrounding space availability, seating capacity, staggered lunch breaks and supervision of pupils”.