Marcus Rashford: School scheme extended after footballer’s campaign

Marcus Rashford

Image caption

The move comes after Marcus Rashford spoke to BBC Breakfast about relying on free school meals while growing up

A “Covid summer school fund” is being set up by the government to help feed children during the holidays, after a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Children eligible for free school meals in term time in England will get a six-week voucher, Downing Street said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed Mr Rashford’s “contribution to the debate around poverty”.

Labour said the move was a “welcome U-turn” – while Mr Rashford, 22, said: “THIS is England in 2020.”

The support works out as about £15 a week per recipient, and will cost the taxpayer about £120m.

In an emotional open letter to MPs posted on Monday, the Manchester United forward drew on his own experience of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up.

In response to the government’s announcement, the footballer said on Twitter: “Just look at what we can do when we come together.”

Families whose children qualify for free meals have received vouchers or parcels in lockdown.

While provision was already arranged to continue through the summer in Scotland and Wales, it was going to end in England at the end of term.

Almost 1.3 million school children in England – accounting for 15.4% of state-educated pupils – were eligible for and claiming free school meals according to the latest available data.

Official figures for 2019 showed the need was greatest in parts of London, the north and Midlands where between a quarter and a third of all pupils were getting the free meals.