HC Deb 22 March 2001 vol 365 cc335-7W
Mr. Mitchell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many local education authorities provide(a) hot and (b) cold meals; [154919]

(2) what consultation he has initiated with schoolchildren about their preferences in respect of school meals and if meals should be hot or cold; [154920]

(3) what guidelines he issues to local education authorities about the nutritional value of hot school meals; [154921]

(4) which authorities have changed school meal provision from hot meals to cold in the last year. [154922]

England in the school year 1999–2000 and provisional figures will be published in a Statistical First Release in May 2001 (provisional date). The Department does not collect data on the number of fixed period exclusions.

The latest available information, which is for the school year 1998–99, on the number of pupils permanently excluded from school in each of the London education authorities and in England as a whole, broken down by ethnic origin, is shown in the table.

Jacqui Smith

Information on hot and cold school meal provision is not collected centrally. Under current education legislation, it is entirely up to local education authorities and schools in England to decide on the presentation and content of school meals. However, from 1 April this year. the Government are introducing compulsory minimum nutritional standards for school lunches—the first for over 20 years—along with a new duty to provide paid meals on request. Although there is no requirement that lunches should be hot, all school lunches, whether hot or cold, will have to meet the new standards.

I accept that hot food may be comforting, particularly in cold weather. In our guidance for caterers on the new standards, there is a strong recommendation that some hot food should be available on the school meal menu.

We consulted widely on the new standards, including a sample of schools. My officials have also visited schools and spoken to children to ask their views on school lunches.

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