12 January 2024
Headteacher: Why no child should go hungry at school
Why no child should go hungry at school by guest blogger Reema Reid, headteacher at Hollydale Primary School, London
I was pleased to see this week's announcement that Free School Meals (FSM) for primary students in London will be extended for another year.
However, FSM is not just an initiative that can reviewed annually; it’s a lifeline that bridges the gap between food poverty and a brighter future for our children.
It should be made permanent and available to children all across England.
I have been a headteacher for over 10 years and have worked in many socially deprived schools in the inner city. I have seen the impact of Free School Meals (FSM) on all children in maintained education.
At Hollydale in the London Borough of Southwark, we are a school where 46% of pupils are in receipt of Free School Meals.
As a result of this, I have extensive experience of how the FSM provision can impact on lives for the following reasons:
- Improved nutrition: FSM ensures that eligible pupils receive nutritious meals, contributing to their overall health and cognitive development, which can lead to better academic performance.
- Reduced absenteeism: FSM helps reduce absenteeism by providing a regular source of nutrition, making pupils less likely to miss school due to health-related issues or hunger.
- Social inclusion: FSM reduces stigma and social disparities among pupils, promoting inclusivity by ensuring that all eligible students have access to free meals.
- Equal opportunities: FSM levels the playing field for pupils from low-income backgrounds, ensuring that socioeconomic status does not hinder academic success.
- Long-term benefits: The positive effects of FSM can extend beyond the school years, as well-nourished pupils are more likely to become healthy and productive members of society, contributing to their communities and the workforce.
In conclusion, no child should go hungry at school. Free School Meals are a simple yet powerful way to address this fundamental issue of equity.
In the current world full of challenges, providing Free School Meals is a compassionate and practical way to support our children of the future and their families.
Reema has worked in Southwark as a substantive headteacher since 2013. The daughter of a Windrush immigrant, she first joined education as a lunchtime supervisor and a teaching assistant in Lambeth and as part of Southwark’s Teaching School Alliance, has helped coach and mentor ethnic minority teachers to take up leadership roles in their schools and has empowered many BAME educators and pupils to follow in her footsteps. In 2021, Reema won the prestigious Gold Teaching Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School in the Pearson National Teaching Awards.