Plaid Cymru has called for cost of school day to be “poverty proofed”

Plaid Cymru has called for urgent steps to be taken to ensure school meal debt doesn’t negatively affect pupils in Wales.

The call includes cancelling school dinner debt, as free school meals are set to be rolled out across primary schools from September – something that was secured by Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government.

Sioned Williams MS, the party’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities, says that the cost associated with many aspects of the school day – such as uniform, trips and food – are not always inclusive for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Ms Williams adds that this is only “exacerbated” by the cost of living crisis.

Supporting children and young people forms part of Plaid Cymru’s five point plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, which was published in February.

Ms Williams says that it’s “no longer sufficient to be anti-poverty”, but that policies must be “poverty proofed” so that the cost of the school day does not cause any child to be excluded or face stigma – work that has been explored by the Child Poverty Action Group.

The matter will be debated in the Senedd today (Wednesday 16 March) as part of a wider call on Welsh Government to increase their efforts to support children, which includes:

  • Reviewing policies on school uniform;
  • Ensuring school dinner debt does not negatively affect pupils;
  • Providing further support to schools to make sure trips and activities are inclusive.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities, Sioned Williams MS said,

“This isn’t just about coming up with anti-poverty solutions, we need to actively ensure that policies and processes are ‘poverty proofed’.

“The cost of the school day is one such example that needs urgent review. Having agreed to provide free school meals for primary school pupils, Welsh Government must also consider the impact that lingering school dinner debt could have on children.

“Nor should they stop at reviewing school dinner policies – they must also increase their efforts to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds by reviewing school uniform policies, improving signposting of the Pupil Development Grant, and ensuring consistent practice in terms of the inclusivity of activities and trips that are offered to children.”