MP served up the facts about infant meals

Laura Shaw serves MP Eric Ollerenshaw, watched by  Gabby, six and Stephen, six at Scorton CE Primary school.
Laura Shaw serves MP Eric Ollerenshaw, watched by Gabby, six and Stephen, six at Scorton CE Primary school.

An MP dropped in for lunch at a local primary school – and saw first-hand some of the delights and the difficulties of a new Government initiative.

Eric Ollerenshaw, the Lancaster and Fleetwood MP, visited Scorton CE primary school on Friday to see how the school is meeting the demands of the Government’s new free school dinners for all infants policy.

A lack of kitchen and dining facilities means the schools have had to be entrepreneurial forging new business links.

Scorton, along with Calder Vale St John’s CE Primary, is having its meals made and delivered by local business The Barn at Scorton.

But at Scorton shortage of space means that in order to turn their classroom into a temporary dining room pupils have to move out.

Headteacher Helen Hesketh said it gives the pupils an opportunity to go to church and explained: “We have worked with the local business community to put the infant meals initiative into place ... The children and parents are able to have some input into our menu and so far the take up of school meals is 100 per cent. Pupils enjoy a delicious, healthy and hot school dinner each day.”

But she also noted: “This has been a welcome but difficult initiative to put in place in a very short time frame.

“We are fortunate we’ve been able to find a provider literally across the road ... so we can support our community and our community can support us.”

The school hopes to be able to offer older pupils the oppportuity to buy a hot lunch after half-term. Chairman of Scorton school’s governors Mr Jonty Colllinson said the school is now trying to access funds to create a new dining are: “We have no kitchen so have to buy in meals and we have no dedicated dining area so have to sit at desks which absolutely disrupts class time.”

Two infants at Calder Vale and 22 at Scorton are tucking into the new menu each school day.

Mr Ollerenshaw enjoyed a lunch of mashed potato, sausages, sweetcorn and beans with fruit and yoghurt for dessert and answered pupils’ questions about work in Westminster before telling the Courier: “The food is far better than I remember school dinners to be and certainly there’s a better standard of conversation than I usually get in the House of Commons.”

He continued: “In my view the policy may be right, but it was one of those things that was brought in too quickly and too little account was taken of smaller rural schools and we’re now trying to pick up the pieces.”

Scorton school believes a new garden room or portable classroom could be the answer to its dining room challenge.

Mr Ollerenshaw praised the staff and village community for finding a temporary solution and pledged to see how he could help the school.

Local vicar the Rev David Brown said: “It’s not ideal eating in a classroom.... once they can find a place for them to eat in – an extension or building then it will be absolutely excellent.”