Thursday, 29 April 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
School Meals Programme
Deputy Joan Collins could not make it, unfortunately, so it is just me. I am happy to speak on the Deputy's behalf. She and I both want to highlight concerns that were raised with us by the board of management of Mary Queen of Angels 2 boys' national school. It is a local issue but it has the potential to be a much wider one that would be very beneficial to address. Mary Queen of Angels 2 applied for the hot meals scheme. An interesting anomaly is that Mary Queen of Angels 1 boys' national school, which shares the site, was selected for the scheme but Mary Queen of Angels 2 was not. Essentially there are two schools on the same site serving the same community but it is as if only half a school is being allowed to avail of the scheme. I appreciate that there was oversubscription. It is a very popular and worthy scheme. Funding was allowed for only 179 schools but close to 300 applied. Mary Queen of Angels schools 1 and 2 are essentially one school on the same site. I can think of plenty of other cases in my constituency where a boys' national school and a girls' national school are on the same site, or where junior and senior national schools are co-located. It makes sense to treat these pairs of schools as one, thereby maximising the economies of scale that can be achieved as a consequence. The biggest advantage of treating the two schools as one is that more students who need a hot meal will get one in school.
The scheme provides an incredibly important service. A warm meal is provided that supports children nutritionally and enhances their ability to engage in school and education. It provides social and educational support. It is an incredibly important programme and should be rolled out nationally to all schools as quickly as possible. There is an anomaly whereby there are two schools on the same site that could be treated as one and that could both benefit from the scheme. The communities attached to each school could benefit so I ask the Minister of State to review the hot meals scheme as it stands, ascertain how many applicant schools are co-located and address this matter so that as many pupils as possible from the community in Ballyfermot and other communities can benefit from it.