Tower Hamlets pupils receiving free school meals hikes during Covid

Youngsters enjoy their lunch break at Tower Hamlets schools

Youngsters enjoy their lunch break at Tower Hamlets schools - Credit: LBTH/stockshot

More children are becoming eligible for free school meals in the East End than almost anywhere in the country, latest government figures show. 

Percentages have risen dramatically during the Covid crisis, Department for Education (DfE) statistics for Tower Hamlets have revealed. 

Distributing school meals at Millwall during summer holiday in middle of the pandemic

Distributing school meals at Millwall during summer holiday in middle of the pandemic - Credit: Island Network

More than 17,400 youngsters are now entitled to free meals, a sharp rise of 2,200 from before the pandemic — the highest number than anywhere across east London. 

The borough with the next highest number of eligible pupils is not far behind, 17,348 in neighbouring Newham schools. 

It means almost 38 per cent of Tower Hamlets students can now get free school meals and is the third highest increase in the country, behind Islington’s 38.3pc and Blackpool at the top with 38.6pc. 


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The highest number of eligible schoolchildren from any one school in the borough is at St Paul’s Way Trust secondary in Bow Common, where 778 pupils get free meals, 108 more compared to this time a year ago.

St Paul’s Way ranked fourth in the whole country for numbers of pupils who can have free meals. 

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But the sharpest rise in east London this year was at Stepney Park Primary School, with 232 children now entitled to free meals compared to just 107 a year ago.

This is an 117pc increase in just 12 months, which gave Stepney Park the 47th highest rise in the country out of more than 11,000 schools. 

The highest percentage of pupils now eligible for free meals in east London is at Bethnal Green’s William Davis Primary School, with 474 youngsters (55pc) - almost the same as a year ago. 

Youngsters at Cayley School holiday club enjoy their lunch

Youngsters at Cayley School holiday club enjoy their lunch - Credit: Magic Breakfast/stockshot

But all children in Tower Hamlets primary schools can receive free meals anyway, budgeted by the council which brought in a “non-discrimination” policy to tackle Britain’s highest rates of child poverty several years ago.

Most of them also have breakfast at school to start the day, organised by the Magic Breakfast charity

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