Nottinghamshire infant and primary schools have only a matter of months to prepare for the large increase in demand for free school meals from September - and some have a lot more work to do than others.
Bosses at Nottinghamshire County Council expect the number of meals it serves per day to increase by a massive 50 per cent when the new Government programme for free school meals for all infant pupils comes in - up from around 24,000 meals to nearly 36,000 meals.
But this means that schools have to be able to cope with the extra preparation and serving of dinners, which is set to involve some major planning and refurbishment works for some.
At Mansfield’s Sutton Road Primary School, the possibility of having a ‘POD’ kitchen - the equivalent of a mobile classroom - installed on site is being investigated.
This would mean the school would then be able to cook and serve the anticipated 125 extra meals a day, in addition to the 140 already served.
Headteacher Nicola Davies said that at its current size, Sutton Road’s kitchen ‘is just not big enough to accommodate all the additional meals’.
They will also have to consider staggered lunchtimes.
“I do think a slightly more thought-through, phased approach might have been better,” she said.
“It’s putting huge pressure on everybody really, not just schools but the local authority as well.”
“I think it’s an excellent idea though,” she added.
“In terms of nutrition, you know children will get something decent for lunch and this is going to help their learning.”
Morven Park Primary School in Kirkby is set to move its kitchen and dining room elsewhere in the school so it can cater for 120 extra meals a day, while Forest Glade Primary in Sutton has big decisions to make about how it will to provide more hot dinners, as it does not currently have its own kitchen.
The number of free school meals it will provide is estimated to rise from 90 to 200 a day.
Headteacher Jo Gibby said that school meals are currently brought in from nearby Dalestorth Primary and discussions are under way as to what the best solution for the school is.
Options being considered include having a POD kitchen or continuing to receive meals from outside and converting a former kitchen into extra serving space.
“We have to choose the right thing - I want to make sure that our children get the best possible quality that we can. We are busy trying to negotiate the best deal we can get,” she said.
“These things are always rushed - the Government says something and we respond the best we can.
“The county council has had a lot to do but it’s up to us from our end to make sure we get the quality of service and to make sure we are ready.”