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Free school meals for reception and year 1 pupils at St Jude's

St Jude's Primary School has been named as one of ten Southwark schools which will take part in a pilot project to provide free healthy lunches to all pupils regardless of their parents' income.

A free, healthy school meal for all pupils at Southwark primary schools was a manifesto commitment from the Labour Party at the local elections in May.

The council says that it plans to extend the scheme to all Southwark primary schools in the next academic year but the first step is to run a pilot in a small number of primary schools this academic year.

The pilot will run from January to July 2011 with reception and year 1 pupils at St Jude's Primary School in Colnbrook Street and nine other schools across the borough.

Officials will use the pilot to assess uptake, capacity and the type of meal to be offered.

"We are delighted to be delivering on our pledge to bring in free, healthy school meals for primary school children," says Cllr Catherine McDonald, cabinet member for children's services,

"Our vision is to create a fairer future based on principles that everyone in the borough should have the same opportunities.

"Free, healthy schools meals is a policy that we believe can make a significant difference to children's lives, education and futures. And, at a time when central government is cutting financial assistance to children and parents, this policy has never been more important."

"The council believes it is the right of every child to benefit from a free healthy school meal, no matter what their economic background, with no child excluded from the opportunity to have a free, healthy meal.

"This is particularly true in lean economic times not just because of the health and educational benefits to all our pupils, but also because of the financial benefits for the least well off in society."

Southwark has one of the highest child obesity rates in the country.

The ten participating schools were selected according to a number of criteria including levels of deprivation (free school meal eligibility rates), levels of obesity and capacity to deliver.

Southwark Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have argued that headteachers should be given discretion to use the extra funding to provide a healthy breakfast for pupils rather than lunch.

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