Happy days! Dinner ladies line up for a picture at St Peter’s in Bellsmyre.

By Bill Heaney

Mashed potatoes sloshing around in thin, greasy mince and watery gravy with butter beans.

That was my absolute hate and horror when I went for my school dinner at Wee St Pat’s in McLean Place.

That was in the 1950s. But I am delighted to report that things have improved and that there has been an increase in the uptake rate for school meals for the first time since 2016.

And, yes, those holes in the picture of me, right,  were caused by darts thrown at a board in the old house. Some things never change.

The proportion of pupils taking a school meal, free or paid for, increased from 50% in 2022 to 53% in 2023. For free school meals alone, the uptake rate increased from 67% in 2022 to 70% in 2023.

The largest increase in free school meal uptake rates was seen in special schools (74% to 84%), with smaller increases in primary (68% to 72%) and secondary schools (60% to 61%).

The proportion of all schools meeting the Physical Education (PE) target of at least two hours in primary and two periods (100 minutes) at secondary school in 2023 was 99%, the same as in 2022.

So, it’s a case of Big Jake no more at Big St Pat’s in Castlehill or Miss Reilly at Clerkhill.

These statistics are sourced from ‘School Healthy Living Survey’ conducted in February 2022.

The information is collected at school level. Information on free school meal registrations is also collected through the annual pupil census and published in School level summary statistics – gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

Further school statistics are available within the School Education section of the Scottish Government website.

All pupils in P1 to P5 have been entitled to free school meals since January 2022. Local Authorities may also implement local measures to extend entitlement to free school meals over the national criteria.

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff in line with the standards of official statistics in Scotland.

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