Meal provision is an integral element of the school completion programme, SCP, which is my Department's main programme for tackling early school leaving. There are currently 82 SCP "clusters", encompassing 299 primary and 111 post-primary schools. The majority of these clusters operate some level of breakfast support-meal provision.
My colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, administers the school meals scheme which aims to supplement the nutritional intake of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to allow them to fulfil their potential within the educational system and also to reduce the risk of early school leaving. Under this scheme in 2003, school meals were provided in 729 primary and post-primary schools, encompassing approximately 76,000 pupils, at a cost of €3.3 million. Increased provision of €6 million is being made available to support the school meals scheme in 2004. Officials in my Department are co-operating with the Department of Social and Family Affairs, on an ongoing basis, with a view to further expanding the number of schools participating in the scheme, as well as ensuring that available resources are targeted at those pupils most in need.