'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Free School Meals: Some thoughts.

1. This is a brilliant policy in general. It will improve the learning for millions of children. To quote the authors of the report on which the policy has been founded

Dimbleby and Vincent wrote: "Academically, the benefits were clear. Students in the pilot areas were on average two months ahead of their peers elsewhere. Between 3% and 5% more children reached the target levels in maths and English at key stage 1. Across both pilot areas, 4% more children achieved the expected levels in English at key stage 2. This is a bigger improvement than the 3.6% boost that followed the introduction of a compulsory 'literacy hour' in 1998.

2. This is a brilliant policy politically. It steals so much thunder from Labour as they try to make the 'standard of living ' argument, now that it seems the economy is on the upswing. Have a read of this great analysis on Liberal Conspiracy of the danger we pose to Labour (no, really, its very very good). Here's a snippet

It doesn’t matter what their voting record is, from here until 2015 the Lib Dems will make loud left-leaning noises to appeal their abandoned base, hoping enough of them will return after reassurances. Labour has to take the Libdems seriously or it can kiss goodbye to any hope of getting near power.

3. It makes a very clear distinction between us and the Tories. It seems we've done a deal. £600m each. They're spending theirs on tax breaks. We spent ours on children

4. It continues the narrative of caring for the early years above everything else; the pupil premium, free childcare, now this. We're still going to get clobbered over tuition fees - but now we can truly make the case that we made a choice - and chose to invest in the youngest.

5. My one concern - should this be a Universal Benefit?; if we means test family benefit, shouldn't we means test this (and extend the meals for longer for poorer children). But after an evening kicking it around, I've decided I was wrong. Child Benefit may be aimed at the child - but gets paid to the parent. This is truly a benefit for the child delivered to the child alone. And every child should receive it.

My view has been even more hardened on this since I learned there is a huge non uptake of children eligible for free school meals currently, due to 'stigma'. making the benefit Universal ends that stigma. 

6. And finally of course, the long term effects of improving the educational benefits for a generation will be huge.

I am a proud Lib Dem today

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