Teachers at a Dundee school could make kids plates of toast next term amid fears that parents won’t be able to afford an 800% price hike at the city’s breakfast clubs.
The Tele has learned the parent council at Ss Peter and Paul RC Primary has drawn up plans to provide for the children of parents who won’t be able to afford the clubs next year.
From August, the price of breakfast clubs will increase from 25p per head per day to £2 for the oldest child in each family and £1 for their siblings.
Across a 38-week term, the total for a single child will rise from £47.50 to £380.
One parent at the school said: “We’re forecasting more kids coming in hungry. We don’t want to see them starving, so at 9am teachers could be going round with plates of toast.”
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Children who receive uniform grants or free lunches will be eligible to use the clubs for free. The council also says other initiatives are being worked on.
But parents in the “just about managing” trap, not eligible for free meals and living on a limited income, say fees are too high and have accused the council of backtracking on promises it made last year.
Wendy Scullin, who owns Madigan’s Tea Emporium on Dundee’s Castle Street, is among those caught in that trap.
“I drop my daughter off at 8am so I can be in here for 8.20am to open up, four times a week,” she said.
“For me, that’s £1 a week – but that will be going up to £8. My family, like a lot of others, are on a budget. Breakfast clubs are my only option.”
The 34-year-old Hilltown mum is among those concerned about the council’s change in tack after it endorsed the Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) Cost of the School Day report.
That report praised the “excellent value” of council-run breakfast clubs, and noted some parents were forced to pay £3 a day for private clubs due to demand.
City education chiefs vowed that “no child in Dundee will start school without a breakfast” following its release.
Wendy added: “Most of my neighbours are in jobs where they’re on minimum wage, some on zero-hours contracts, with no way of knowing if they’ll have the money to pay at the end of the month.
“It’s frustrating especially because the council say they were subsidising the clubs but now we are.
“You wouldn’t get an 800% rise in your council tax or your rent – how can the council justify that big a rise? You’re not giving parents time to adjust to an incremental rise – it’s just too much.”
Labour Coldside councillor George McIrvine claims the move will leave already hard-up families struggling.
He said: “The tightest budgets are taking another hit. This shouldn’t be happening at all in 2019. It’s disgraceful.
“The purpose of breakfast clubs was to ensure each child had eaten a nutritious breakfast before the start of the day.
“Now it seems the SNP is looking at vital school breakfast clubs in our local communities as an income generator.”
Children and family services convener Stewart Hunter said the decision had been “tough” but would give the council an extra £203,000 each year to invest in city breakfast clubs.
“In an audit of our breakfast clubs last year we found only about 78% of kids actually have the breakfast,” he said.
“We have used Pupil Equity Fund money to create ‘formal’ breakfast clubs in 14 primary schools and we’re about to do it in two more. These clubs will be targeted to those who need them the most.”
Mr Hunter added that council clubs remained “significantly” cheaper than private offerings.