COUNCIL bosses are expected to rubber-stamp a pilot project offering free school meals to every pupil at a primary school in one of York’s most disadvantaged areas.

Under the scheme, all children at Westfield Primary School will start receiving free school lunches for a year from January.

The cost of providing the meals will initially be met from a £100,000 pot set aside by the council specifically for the purpose.

But the authority will also be launching a public appeal to set up a Community Fund which would allow the scheme to be continued and expanded.

Members of the council’s ruling Executive committee who meet tomorrow (Thursday, November 16) will also be asked to approve a parallel pilot scheme to run at Burton Green Primary Academy, where all the children would be given a free breakfast.

The Burton Green pilot will be subject to enough funds being raised through the Community Fund.

Investigating ways to provide free school meals for York primary school children who need them was one of the election pledges made by Labour at the recent council election.

Speaking shortly after Labour took over as the authority’s new ruling administration, new council leader Claire Douglas told The Press that the benefits of ensuring that every child from a poorer background had at least one proper meal a day were huge.

“The educational benefits are absolutely beyond doubt,” she said. “For a child to be able to sit in class all day and be able to learn, they need to be well-fed.”

The benefits would last right through into adulthood, she added.

Speaking ahead of today’s Executive Committee meeting, Executive member for education, children and young people, Cllr Bob Webb, said the recommendations expected to be approved tomorrow set out the way forward.

“This Executive report provides the free school meals options we’ve been working to develop for several months,” he said.

“We will evaluate and learn from both trials before deciding on the next stage of the rollout, once the York Fund is well established and receiving contributions from individuals and organisations across the city.

“I’m delighted we’ve reached this stage and look forward to getting underway in January, when the first children will start to benefit”.

Westfield Primary School has been chosen for the initial pilot because it is the largest primary school in York, and Westfield ward has the highest level of children living in low income households of any ward in York.

The Burton Green Primary School free breakfast pilot is being recommended at the request of headteachers who are 'keen to understand the impact it would have on learning in the morning', Cllr Webb added.