A quarter of Doncaster pupils on free school meals
A quarter of pupils in Doncaster are receiving free school meals as thousands more became eligible during the pandemic, figures show.
The Association of School and College Leaders said the coronavirus crisis had worsened child poverty across England, and called on the Government to make solving it a top priority.
Department for Education figures show 11,795 children in Doncaster were eligible for free school meals in January – 25 per cent of all state school pupils in the area.
This was up from 20 per cent the year before, and at the highest level since comparable figures began in 2015-16.
In Doncaster, 3,000 children became eligible between March 23 2020 – when the first national lockdown began – and January, though the DfE said some may have been previously eligible at other times.
Of the children, 2,259 went to primary schools, 712 to secondary schools and 29 to special schools.
Across England, 1.74 million pupils (21 per cent) were eligible for free school meals in January, up from 1.44 million in the same month in 2020.
Around 427,000 pupils had a free school meal eligibility start date after the first lockdown – compared to 292,000 for the same period a year previously.
Children are entitled to free school meals if their parent or carer is on benefits, including income support or receiving Universal Credit, with a household income of less than £7,400 a year.
The ASCL said the increase in free school meal eligibility illustrates the financial impact of the pandemic on families.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the organisation, said: “Child poverty was already a terrible blight on our society prior to coronavirus.
"The situation is now even worse, and tackling this issue simply has to be a top priority for the Government.”
The DfE figures also show how free school meal coverage compares in the 119 state schools in Doncaster with at least 100 pupils.
Highfields Primary Academy – which is a mixed sex primary school in Adwick le Street & Carcroft – had the highest proportion in the area, with 64.3 per cent of pupils eligible.
At the other end of the scale, was Sprotbrough Orchard Infant School, with just 1.9 per cent of the children at the mixed sex primary school in Sprotbrough receiving free school meals.