MOST young children in Sussex will tuck into a free hot meal when they return to school – despite the flagship Liberal Democrat policy running aground elsewhere in England.

Almost £3 million in state grants has ensured that nearly all state-funded schools in Sussex will provide hot meals to reception, year one and year two students from September.

All schools in Brighton and Hove will meet the requirement while 16 in West Sussex and two in East Sussex will not offer hot meals every day.

The success is in contrast to elsewhere in England, where a survey has found a £25 million funding shortfall with councils having to raid school maintenance budgets to fund meals.

The Government has shared £150 million between councils to help bring kitchens up to standard across the country.

The policy was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last year at the Liberal Democrats’ conference.

In West Sussex, 193 of the 209 local authority schools will provide hot free school meals from September while the other 16 schools will provide free packed lunches.

By January, a further eight schools will provide a hot school meal.

The eight remaining schools are primaries, Aldingbourne, Camelsdale, Ferring, Harlands, Kingslea, and Westbourne and the academies Medmerry and Southwater Junior.

A West Sussex spokeswoman said: “We plan to have discussions with these eight schools in the autumn with a view to meeting the Government’s expectation of providing hot meals to all infants. This may be achieved in some schools by the end of the year.

“We offered all these eight schools hot meal provision via deliveries but they all declined and said they would make their own arrangements.”

An East Sussex spokesman said West Rise Infant School in Eastbourne will provide hot meals on two days while Dudley Infant Academy in Hastings will provide a mix of hot and cold meals.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “All our schools are sorted regarding hot food.”