A HEADTEACHING leader says East Lancashire’s most deprived schools could miss out because of the latest free school meals initiative.

Currently for each child who registers for free school meals, the school receives a sum called the pupil premium grant.

The registration of free school meals has long been used as an indicator of deprivation, and government provide extra cash to help the neediest schools.

Les Turner, Lancashire’s representative for the National Association of Head Teachers said many local members were now worried their grants will plummet.

Some headteachers fear the introduction of universal free school meals will remove the incentive for parents to register their child as eligible for extra funding.

Mr Turner said: “It is a problem my members are very wary of.

“The government have used free school meals as a proxy indicator for all sorts of things in schools for 20-30 years.

“As a headteacher I would often urge parents who were eligible to register because it helped the school access the funding it was eligible for. I would sometimes struggle because they preferred not to.

“If they will not even get a free school meal out it, what incentive is there to register?”

Preston headteacher Peter Cunningham at Lancashire Schools Forum raised the issue with other members.

He said: “I’m concerned about the impact of free school meals on budgets.

“In the past, when parents registered pupils for the free school meals, it also qualified the school for the pupil premium.

“If Universal Free School meals mean parents no longer have to register that seems to be there will be an inevitable effect on how the pupil premium is given to schools which will see schools get less funding.

“The upshot is that there may be fewer people’s registered and that may persist even when they go to secondary school if they haven’t registered as primary.”

The benefits of parents registering for free school meals saw Blessed Trinity headteacher Richard Varey in Burnley take to social media to urge them on last year.

He said: “The school receives a grant of £900 for each child who is entitled to free school meals which is used to provide additional classroom support, homework and breakfast clubs, tuition, additional support in numeracy and literacy, a counsellor and college courses.”