Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has held discussions with Education Minister, John O’Dowd on the potential of accessing EU funds to provide free school breakfast clubs here.
The Sinn Féin MEP said:
“Tackling poverty and deprivation wherever it occurs is a priority for Sinn Féin and the particular challenges faced by pupils from lower income backgrounds. Difficulties for pupils in this category in accessing, participating in and benefiting from, formal education are well documented and can have a dramatic impact on their educational attainment and ultimately on their lifetime opportunities.
“That is why successive Sinn Féin Education ministers have extended the free school meal criteria so that tens of thousands more families now benefit from this key support. That is why John O’Dowd recently reformed the school funding formula to direct more resources at those schools with the highest numbers of disadvantaged children.
“There are many opportunities within Europe to build upon this work and as a result of our discussions the Minister has submitted a bid to the €3.5million Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).
“If successful, this money will be used to provide free breakfast clubs for children from low-income households. This would be an extremely positive addition to the existing free school meal programme. None of us should underestimate the important contribution which a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal can make to a child’s overall health and wellbeing, to learning and cognitive development and, in turn, to academic performance.
“The British government is resistant to accessing this fund, preferring, to reduce spending as we have seen through their Welfare Cuts agenda which is contributing to the increased number of children facing social disadvantage.
“However, Sinn Féin’s record on opposing these cuts and in preventing other retrograde steps such as the imposition of water charges, student fee increases and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance proves that we will always defend the interests of our young people and their families.