I propose to take Questions Nos. 1764, 1765, 1768, 1771 and 1841 together.
The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €57.6 million in 2019 representing an increase of €3.6 million over the previous year. The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.
The School Meals Scheme is currently available to all DEIS schools, subject to submission of an application each year. The scheme provides funding for a breakfast or snack for all children and lunch for up to 90% of children in DEIS schools for the entire school year from September to June. Currently 857, out of 896, DEIS schools participate in the scheme. The remainder have chosen not to participate. A total of €43.8 million was allocated to DEIS schools in the 2018/2019 academic year.
Not all DEIS schools apply for the scheme and, out of the schools that do apply, not all schools apply for two clubs for the full enrolment figures. If funding were to be provided to all DEIS schools for a breakfast or snack for all children and lunch for up to 90% of children in DEIS schools the full year cost would be €59.9 million. The full year cost of providing a breakfast and lunch to all children in DEIS schools would be €64.4 million.
As part of Budget 2019, it was announced that DEASP would commence a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing Hot School Meals in 36 primary schools for an estimated 7,200 children at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in 2020.
All 3,239 primary schools were issued with an invitation to submit an expression of interest to participate in the pilot. Over 500 expressions of interest were received from Primary Schools across the country.
The 36 schools chosen to participate in the pilot were selected randomly, having regard to geographical spread, numbers enrolled, range of suppliers and the overall budget available for the pilot in 2019 and 2020 (€1m and €2.5 respectively).
The pilot will also be run in Our Lady of Lourdes NS in Goldenbridge for the 2019/20 school year following the Proof of Concept which has been operating there successfully since early this year.
A report will issue after the pilot is complete and the outcomes evaluated. As outcomes will be largely driven by a differential analysis of educational outcomes in pilot versus non-pilot schools, the intention is that the Department of Education and Skills and the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service will be involved in establishing an evaluation framework and timeframe. Outcomes will be tracked and measured throughout the duration of the pilot.
The full year cost of extending the Hot Meals Pilot to all children at primary school level would be an estimated €296m.
Any increase in the funding of the scheme, or extension of the pilot programme can only be considered in a budgetary context.
I trust that this clarifies the position.