A college in Norwich believes a government policy which excludes further education students from receiving free school meals is forcing some young people to cut short their learning.

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City College Norwich, on Ipswich Road, has thrown its weight behind the national No Free Lunch? campaign launched by the Association of Colleges.

It is protesting against a government policy which sees students aged 16 to 18 at sixth forms funded to receive a free meal while those of the same age at further education colleges are not.

Corrienne Peasgood, principal at the college, said: “We are talking about hundreds of our students who are missing out on free meals. That’s very difficult for them. These young people are coming from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds. If they are struggling to make ends meet, they are less likely to want to continue in their education.

“We’re not asking for any more than their counterparts at sixth forms are getting. We’re asking for parity.”

Many of those student would have been used to getting free meals at lunchtime throughout their schooling.

City College said, on top of the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the change could prove particularly difficult.

Jeni-Marie Pittuck, president of the college’s students’ union who has been spearheading its support of the campaign, said: “If you’re hungry, it’s difficult to focus on your lessons. You’re not going to achieve. I know how angry and annoyed I get if I don’t get my lunch on time. People do achieve more if they have had that helping hand.

“If I couldn’t afford to eat, I wouldn’t want to come to college.”

The college has been encouraging students to sign the petition and show their support with badges. The University of East Anglia and Great Yarmouth College have also given their support, Miss Pittuck said.

She added: “It’s an easy campaign. No-one’s got any arguments against it.”

The AOC launched its campaign last summer and so far more than 5,000 people have signed a government e-petition. If it attracts at least 100,000 signatures it could be debated the House of Commons by MPs.

Martin Doel, AOC chief executive, said: “A modest amount of students from some of the most vulnerable areas of society could depend on at least one decent meal a day. Therefore, I am pleased to be working in partnership with MPs, college principals and students across England to help to fight this inequality.”

Supporters are asked to go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31069 to sign up and use the hashtag #nofreelunch to talk about the issue on Twitter.

5 comments

  • It is a matter of prioritising how you spend your money. Having an all singing, all dancing mobile phone for instance should come second to providing yourself with a meal. Anyone who has brought up teenagers knows that eating properly and looking after themselves is way down their list of priorities. As for getting a job to provide a few extra bob is concerned, don`t even go there! We must really stop being such a nanny state and get these kids to start fending for themselves a bit more. Many of their parents depend too much on the state and if the circle is not broken, they too will come to rely on the state to provide for them.

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    BG

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pay for it. These are taxpayer funded lunches. Breakfast is a far more important meal anyway and can be quite cheap if you don't buy any of the sugar and salt rich cereals. Far too many benefits were introduced by the previous 'nanny state' government and we just can't afford all of them.

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    Norfolk Lad

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

  • There have been any number of mistakes with the public expenditure cuts but possibly the loss of the Educational Maintenance Allowance of around £30 a week which made all the difference to young learners' lives,has been the worst cut of all,affecting both able and disabled people,and,if as a result they simply are not eating and their diet is affected,their concentration and thus ability to learn will undoubtedly suffer.Everyone,including them,will suffer as a result too in their lost potential.I hope it can be restored for everyone's sake.

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    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

  • @ acenditcantu - I totally agree with you. Far too many people were drawn into the benefits giveaway by the last government. Welfare as far as I am concerned is to get you back onto your feet or act as a safety net when you are suddenly and unexpectedly thrown out of work. Its time this reliance on the state was stopped.

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    BG

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • @BG But how students prioritise their spending isn't the issue here. The issue, and the main point of discussion, is that Norwich City College seeks the same treatment given to sixth form colleges, ie that eligible pupils receive free meals. It is not the case that all students sacrifice their daily sustanance for the latest mobile phone technology. Sadly, in a proportion of families, the parents don't care that their children leave home to go to school or college hungry. As family units, of course we should work to pay our way in life and teach our children the same values. Unfortunately, if anyone will suffer, it is most likely to be the children, not their benefit claiming parents.

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    Musto_Fan

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

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