MP making a (free) meal of it

Students from Lower Sixth Form Winstanley College, Orrell, and Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue
Students from Lower Sixth Form Winstanley College, Orrell, and Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue

MAKERFIELD MP Yvonne Fovargue is backing a group of campaigning Wigan students who are calling for free meals to be made available to all further education students.

Currently, 16-18 year-olds from a disadvantaged background, who study at a Further Education or Sixth Form College, do not receive free meals at lunchtime whereas their counterparts in school sixth forms, academies, free schools and University Technical Colleges do receive free meals.

Ms Fovargue has visited Winstanley College to meet with staff and students who are calling on the Government to extend free meals to students at college as part of the No Free Lunch? campaign.

The Labour MP maintains that there are three reasons why dealing with the anomaly is even more urgent now than it was in the past.

One is the removal of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), an initiative that transformed the lives of individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Youngsters could receive up to £30 a week on EMA and its removal, Ms Fovargue believes, has had a direct impact on attendance, retention, achievement and progression In addition to the removal of EMA, with the raising of the participation age, all students will now progress on beyond age 16.

And with the advent of academies which offer free school meals, but a 16-to-19 sixth-form college or further education college cannot.

Ms Fovargue said: “This is clearly unfair and needs to change. Eligibility for free meals should be based on need, not on where you choose to study.

“This anomaly needs to be addressed. The Government acknowledges this so now is the time for it to act and put an end to this raw deal for students at Winstanley College.”

Principal of Winstanley College, Jo Bailey, is backing the campaign.

She said: “All young people should be able to make a free and fair choice about where they study post-16.

“The provision of a hot, nutritious lunch-time meal should be available to all students from a disadvantaged background, not just those staying on at school. We are campaigning to end this injustice.”