More than 60 Shropshire primary schools could have to axe hot school meals by April because of budget shortfalls, council bosses warned today.
Shropshire Council chiefs also said there was an ‘inevitable’ risk to catering jobs in schools which decide not to continue providing a meals service, after new funding guidelines were passed down from central Government.
The council’s Shire Services currently provides each of the 131 primary schools in Shropshire with a school meals service but from April the Government is changing the way it funds school meals as part of wider reforms.
The county primary schools, which cater for up to 20,000 pupils, will now have to apply directly to the Government for funding which will be calculated on how many pupils they have and how many are eligible for free meals.
It will mean about half of these schools, particularly those in rural areas, face a shortfall that could lead them to scrap school meals.
Those affected by the changes could also decide to run the service independently or with other schools.
A council spokesman said: “Based on current costs and existing pupil and free school meal numbers, about half of Shropshire Council’s 131 primary schools are likely to have insufficient funding to cover the cost of their current school meals service.”
Councillor Cecilia Motley said: “These changes are essentially an unforeseen circumstance of the Government’s school funding reforms and, as the council is no longer able to retain the funding centrally, we really don’t have any choice about whether we follow them or not.
“Yet again, it is a case of rural counties getting the thin end of the wedge as these changes will pose a particular difficulty for small schools in more isolated areas.”