# Calculating the cost of Labour and Tory manifesto pledges on free school meals

Number of primary pupils 2016: 4,615,170
Percentage of primary school children presently getting free lunches: 14.5%.

Number of school days: 180 (Google search)

I have used an estimated cost of a school meal: £2.05 per child as quoted as the mean in 2013/14 +1p. I also used the government £2.30 — as they buy lunches for just 14.5% of primary school children at present — I have reduced £2.30 by just 11% for economy of scale for a Labour government.

Note: Some wealthy areas in 2016 charged £2.50 some poorer areas charged £2.00 ‘to those that pay’ according to a Guardian article. So I think £2.05 would represent a fair price for ‘all’ primary age children.

Tory Plan:

No primary school children in the future will get free lunches. And to use the free school lunch money to pay for £4bn of the school budget and provide a free cheap breakfast to the 14.5% of ‘means tested’ primary pupils at a cost of £60m/annum. The present cost of lunches is £2.30. The future cost of breakfasts will be 50p for the soon to be stigmatised ‘50p breakfast club’ children.

Maths:

4,615,170 children x 180 school days x £2.05 x 14.5% = £246,934,670.

Repeating above equation at £2.30 per meal:

4,615,170 x 180 days x £2.30 x 14.5% = £277,048,655

Note: 6 million was probably saved by the Tories by only paying schools for meals served. Not paying for prepared meals absent children didn’t eat.

For the Tories to recover £4bn in primary school meal savings requires 16 years of £247m or 15 years at £271m. Then you need to add an extra £300m for 5 years of those super-cheap breakfasts at 50p per ‘means tested’ child.

### Labour plan

Number of primary pupils 2016: 4,615,170

Planned percentage of primary school children under getting free lunches: 100%. (source Labour manifesto)

Number of school days: 180 (Google search)

Estimated cost of a school meal: £2.05 per child.

Note: Some wealthy areas in 2016 charge £2.50 some poorer areas charge £2.00 ‘to those that pay’ according to a Guardian article. So I think £2.05 would represent a fair price for primary age children.

Maths:

4,615,170 children x 180 school days x £2.05 (x 100%) = £1,702,997,730 =£1.7bn.

The Labour manifesto says it will raise this money from VAT on private school fees.

Number in private education 625,000.

The average fee without VAT was £13,341 in 2016

The VAT raised would be 20% of £13,341 x 625,000 = £8,338,125,000 x 20% = £1,667,625,000, approximately £1.7bn.

Conclusions
If primary school meals are costed at £2.05 per meal, from increased bulk buying, then Labour breaks even at £1.7bn. The Tories would have a shortfall of over £1/2bn per year on their £4bn budget for ‘all schools’ for the next 5 years.

If primary school meals are costed at £2.30 per meal (i.e. no 11% saving from increased bulk buying for 100% of children) then Labour has a slight shortfall of £200m. Though this scenario is highly unlikely. Bulk buying can considerably increase savings.

A postcript:

Poorest kids — Marginal gains experiment?

I also believe Maintained schools were given ‘on average’ 4p less per primary school meal than Academies. So down from £2.30+/- to £2.26+/-

see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-infant-free-school-meals-uifsm-funding-allocations-2015-to-2016 if you want to calculate it yourself. I used it to provide a ratio of maintained v academies per meal spend to multiply by current meal price £2.30.

If Olympic athletes believe spending 5 minutes less (or is that fewer) eating lunch perhaps this theory is being tested on poorest in Maintained schools giving those children 4p less food to eat compared to poorest children in Academies. Or is it 4p less (or is that fewer) in food quality?