Make school meals free at exam time, campaigner tells Greenwich Council

Timi Jibogu outside the Woolwich Centre
Timi Jibogu hopes to meet the council leader to discuss the issue

School students who are taking exams should be given free school meals, a teenage campaigner has told Greenwich Council, which says it is looking into the idea.

Timi Jibogu, who represents Greenwich on the UK Youth Parliament, told 853 that the cost of living crisis had made it increasingly difficult for families to afford food – and that this was affecting students’ grades.

“Many students come to school hungry and are unable to concentrate on their studies and this has a direct impact on their academic performance,” he said.

“As a community, we have a responsibility to ensure that every student has access to basic necessities, especially during exams. Providing free school meals for students taking exams would ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background.”

The 16-year-old, from Kidbrooke, has met one of his local councillors, John Fahy, to discuss the issue, and hopes to meet Anthony Okereke, the council leader as well.

Jibogu has written to Okereke, telling how students at his school, Thomas Tallis, pour out into a nearby shopping parade to buy chicken and chips at lunchtime. “It’s not up to the council to solve every problem, but, this problem is possible to solve,” he wrote.

He has also been taking part in a wider campaign to persuade the government to fund free school meals for all pupils.

A council spokesperson said the town hall thanked Jibogu for “raising awareness about this important issue”.

They added: “We are currently looking into providing meals for students who need additional support during exam times and the leader and cabinet member look forward to meeting Timi soon to discuss further.

“Despite real-term government cuts to services, we provide hundreds of daily free packed lunches during the school holidays.  We do this with no direct Government funding, as it is the right thing to do for our children.  We also provide cash payments to families who qualify for free school meals using the Household Support Grant, and grants to buy school uniforms.

“We have worked closely with the mayor of London on this issue and he has since stepped up to provide funding for free school meals in primary schools. Last year a motion was passed at Full Council calling for an even greater expansion of free school meals, and we continue to urge the government to follow the mayor’s lead and do the right thing.”

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