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Free school meal uptake in Aberdeen nearly 20% lower than Scottish average

Councillor Martin Greig at Marischal College, Aberdeen.    
Picture by Kami Thomson.
Councillor Martin Greig at Marischal College, Aberdeen. Picture by Kami Thomson.

New survey results show that free school meal applications in Aberdeen secondary schools are nearly 20% lower than the rest of Scotland.

The assessment, carried out by Aberdeen City Council’s education committee, found that the uptake for the service sits at 52% in the Granite City – significantly lower than the national average of 70%.

Free school meals are available to children between the ages of four and 18 if their parents are in receipt of income support, the income-based Job Seekers Allowance scheme or receive low pay.

In November, Scottish education secretary John Swinney pledged that all primary school age children will get free breakfasts “all year round” if the SNP is re-elected to Holyrood next May.

Aberdeen city counsellor Martin Grieg called for “an explanation” on the city’s low uptake of free school meals from Aberdeen City Council.

He added: “There’s a clear disparity in comparison with other areas and perhaps more needs to be done to publicise the availability of the service through improvements to the registration system.

“Without a doubt, work needs to be carried out to improve the current figure.”

It is thought around 8,385 children receive free school meals in Aberdeen each day, based on national criteria.

Aberdeen councillors chose to extend the programme in September to include those families who were in receipt of  Universal Credit.

Estimates by council officials indicated at the time that 150 pupils receiving free meals every day from October 26 until the end of the academic year would cost the local authority around £43,000, while extending it to cover the whole of the 2021/22 year would cost a further £60,000.

Aberdeen City Council did not respond to request for comment.

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