Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver won a major victory for school meals today as the Government finally bowed to pressure and pledged £280m to the cause.
Education secretary Ruth Kelly announced the Government's plans earlier this morning just before Oliver presented a petition of more than 270,000 signatures to the Prime Minister.
The extra cash has been promised by the Government to ensure that every primary school will have 50p to spend on ingredients per child and every secondary school will have 60p.
The announcement came after mounting public pressure to improve the dire standard of school meals in England and Wales as exposed in Oliver's four part television series, Jamie's School Dinners.
Kelly, who denied the proposals were a pre-election knee-jerk reaction, said: "This new investment will transform what is offered to children and teenagers in our schools so that high-quality healthy food is on every child's plate.
"But it is not just about money for ingredients, it is also about ensuring schools have the expertise available."
The Government has stopped short of banning junk food or vending machines from schools, however.
Kelly said: "It is not just about banning what is unhealthy: it is about promoting what is healthy."
Government proposals include:
£220m of new funding grants direct to schools and local education authorities to ensure a minimum spend of 50p per pupil per day in primary schools and 60p in secondary
The additional funding will also provide increased training and longer working hours for school cooks
£60m from the Big Lottery Fund and the Department for Education and Skills to create a new quango called the School Food Trust. This will give independent support and advice to schools and parents to help improve the standards of school meals
Minimum nutritional standards developed by an expert panel to be introduced to primary and secondary schools from September 2005, and becoming mandatory from September 2006. The panel has been asked to consider the use of nutrient-based standards and whether any individual foodstuffs should be banned
Proposals to enable parents to work with schools and the School Food Trust to improve the quality of school meals with a dedicated "toolkit" for parents to be published in May
Ofsted to review the quality of school meals as part of regular school inspections from September
by Jessica Gunn
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