CONCERNS have been raised over the number of children who are missing out on free school meals.

Pupils in P1, P2 and P3 classes at all local schools are entitled to a free meal but new research suggests around a quarter do not have one on a typical day.

And the proportion is even higher among secondary school pupils whose family circumstances mean they are also entitled to a free meal.

The research, carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University, was commissioned by the Association of Facilities Managers (Assist FM), whose members include every Scottish local authority school meals provider.

Jayne Jones, national chairwoman of Assist FM, said the report raises some important issues.

She added: “All of our members are dedicated, as local authority providers, to ensuring that children receive a healthy nutritious meal at lunchtime. For many school pupils, the only hot meal they will have each day is at school.

“However, there are areas that we need to explore further, such as what happens outside the school gate, as well as the support we need internally within schools to achieve better uptakes, especially for pupils entitled to free school meal provision.”

Uptake of free meals across Scotland was higher in primary schools and in those which are either smaller in size or more rural in character.

A spokesman for Cosla, which represents Scottish councils, said it is important to remove any potential or perceived barriers to the uptake of school meals.

He added: “It should also be noted that most local authorities are now providing food and activities outside of normal school hours, including before and after school and in the school holidays.”

The Scottish Government has encouraged all local families with a child who is above P3 and eligible for free school meals to make sure they are registered.

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