ALMOST 6,000 York children will get free school meals when terms starts again this week.

Under the new universal free school meals scheme for infant pupils - those in reception and Years 1 and 2 - approximately 5,819 children will qualify in York this term.

Councillor Carol Runciman, York Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson for children, education and young people, welcomed the scheme which was announced by the Liberal Democrat’s national party last year, and said it would help families out financially, as well as boost children’s academic achievement and enhance their social interaction skills.

The councillor said of the policy: “The benefits for children and families in York will be significant.

“Free school meals will improve children’s ability to learn, make sure they eat more healthy food, and save parents around £400 a year per child.”

Pilot schemes showed that children who had a school meal were two to three months ahead academically compared to children who did not have one, she added, while sitting down to enjoy lunchtime together broadened pupils’ social skills.

And praising her national party, Cllr Runciman said: “The coalition government has put £1bn new revenue into the scheme. It is clear that this policy and this investment would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Government.”