Knowledge hungry students will no longer miss out on free meals because they attend college rather than school thanks to a ground-breaking Surrey County Council scheme.
The authority is guaranteeing that all teenagers from a disadvantaged background* who switch to college courses and training centres do not learn on an empty stomach.
Under Surrey’s scheme up to 400 students who opt not to stay on at school to take A levels will continue to receive free lunches.
Currently 16 to 18-year-olds nationally who would be offered free meals** if they were studying at a school sixth form miss out if they go to college.
Surrey’s initiative is part of a drive to combat the number of young people not in education, employment or training that has seen businesses offered a cash incentive to hire 200 apprentices and plans unveiled for a network of skills centres.
Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Our aim is to do all we can to create opportunities that prepare today’s young people for a successful future.
“The county council’s version of free school meals for colleges and training centres is a key part of that. Many young people want to take more vocational courses and our scheme means money worries about food won’t be part of career choices.”
North East Surrey College of Technology has welcomed the initiative that will be launched at the start of the next academic year**.
Principal Sunaina Mann said: “We are delighted that the county council has listened to the concerns of Surrey colleges that eligibility for free meals should be based on need, not on where you choose to study.
“This will make a significant difference to those young people and their families in challenging circumstances who struggle to make ends meet.”
* Pupils qualify for free meals if they belong to a non-working family or one where the household income is below £16,190, although certain tax credits are also considered.
** Plans are in place to continue funding free meals for those entering a second year of study.