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Update on the national free school meals voucher scheme

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members

Over the last 48 hours, we have continued to monitor the government's national free school meal voucher scheme. It is clear from the high number of emails and phone calls we have been receiving that the online system is still not working for a large number of you.

This has created high levels of stress and frustration for our members. We know that school leaders, and school business leaders in particular, have spent hours and hours trying to get the website to work.

NAHT has made strong representations to the government that it must fix the situation quickly.

Although the intentions behind the scheme were good, it is clear that alternative solutions are necessary until the supplier can satisfy demand.

And while we continue to urge the government to work with the supplier to fix the problems, we know that many of you cannot wait for this to happen.

With that in mind, we are writing to you today to reiterate the message we received from the Department for Education (DfE) last week:

"The DfE is encouraging schools to use the national voucher scheme, which is fully-funded and free at the point of use. However, for schools who are using their own voucher scheme, because this is best for the families in their area, costs can be reimbursed through the schools' fund (up to the £15 per pupil per week limit and in line with the funding guidance issued this week)."

Our reading of this is that if you have an alternative approach available, you are free to do so.

I know many of you are concerned by the final part of that statement, where it uses the phrase "in line with funding guidance issued this week." Over the last 24 hours, we have been asking the government to make it completely clear and transparent that it will reimburse schools who spend money on FSM provision without any unreasonable parameters or restrictions applied at a later date. We will continue to make this case in the strongest possible terms.

I also know that, for some of you, the national voucher scheme is your only option, and as such, we will continue to press the DfE to work with Edenred to fix the undeniable problems our members continue to encounter.

First published 15 April 2020