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Catholics miss out on school meals in East Sussex
Catholics in the county are not signing up for free school meals despite being eligible.
Figures reveal pupils at catholic schools are below the national average take-up of the meals.
One primary school in East Sussex is urging parents to claim or risk the school missing out on vital cash.
Lowest uptake Out of the 27,000 pupils in the Arundel and Brighton area, only 6.1% are claiming the scheme – the lowest in all the country.
The national average for claiming is 14.1%.
The failure to claim could have a damaging effect, with funding formulas from the government taking into account the number of pupils on the scheme.
Annecy Catholic School in Seaford wrote to parents imploring them to claim even if they take their own lunch, adding other benefits are often included as well.
A letter said: “You should still claim your entitlement even if your child usually has a packed lunch as people entitled to free meals can often get other benefits (for example free school milk through Cool Milk) and with the government funding formula it will affect the amount of money allocated to the school budget.”
The Catholic Education Service said the stigma of the scheme, eligible for those from deprived areas, could be holding people back.
Other reasons could be those who struggle with English not understanding the form or the system.
It is planning on investigating the shortfall, especially as the number of students from deprived areas at its schools is higher than the national average.
A spokeswoman admitted the two statistics did not join up and said the service would launch a review into why.
It is also planning large campaign to raise awareness of the scheme.
There will also be consultation with the Children’s Society which has done research into different ways schools handle the free school meals scheme.
Ideas such as a cashless lunch system have been mooted to try and remove possible stigma.
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