Shropshire Council appeals for patience in bid to secure free school meals amid coronavirus shutdown

Shropshire Council education officers have asked parents to be patient with them as they work to make sure children who are entitled to free school meals get them from Monday.

The council is working with Shropshire schools in the wake of the announcement that schools across England would shut to most students after this week in an effort to delay the spread of the coronavirus.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on Wednesday that the Government is developing a national approach to free school meals involving vouchers for supermarkets.

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In an interview with BBC Radio Shropshire's Adam Green, learning and skills manager Phil Wilson said: "I think people are hopefully going to have to be patient with us. There's a lot of information coming through.

"We need to get a sense of how many children are actually in school on Monday and how we respond to that.

"I would ask for patience and cooperation with us.

"We are working fast-track to be able to support the families but I hope the schools are making provisions so that certainly for the free school meal-eligible pupils who aren't in school, that they are working on those arrangements as we speak and hopefully they will be in place for Monday.

"What I would say is those arrangements will be tweaked, modified in the week that follows as things begin to settle down."

'Provision is going to differ'

He also said: "Where schools remain open and they've got facilities through catering organisations... they will be working very much to make sure that the children who are in school are getting provision of meals, but equally that they organise and arrange localised arrangements for the delivery or picking up of free school meals for those eligible children who are not in school.

"We've got some guidance earlier today from the Department of Education... there will be vouchers to be redeemed at local supermarkets.

"On an individual school basis [provision] is going to differ."

Karen Bradshaw, the council's director of children's services, said in the same interview that the decision about school closures was a timely one.

"It hasn't come as a total surprise," she said.

"Of course this creates a period of uncertainty going forward but it also ends the period of uncertainty when schools were thinking 'when is the government going to make the decision?'.

"It ends that speculation so we can now move forward knowing what we've got to do."

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