Around one in six pupils on free school meals across the East Riding, Department for Education figures show
Around one in six pupils in the East Riding are receiving free school meals as over 1,000 more became eligible during the pandemic, figures show.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the coronavirus crisis had worsened child poverty across England, and called on the Government to make solving it a top priority.
Department for Education figures show 7,766 children in the East Riding were eligible for free school meals in January – 17% of all state school pupils in the area.
This was up from 15% the year before, and at the highest level since comparable figures began in 2015-16.
In the East Riding, 1,402 children became eligible between March 23 2020 – when the first national lockdown began – and January, though the DfE said some may have been previously eligible at other times.
Of the children, 978 went to primary schools, 402 to secondary schools, 19 to special schools and three in pupil referral units.
Across England, 1.74 million pupils (21%) were eligible for free school meals in January, up from 1.44 million in the same month in 2020.
Around 427,000 pupils had a free school meal eligibility start date after the first lockdown – compared to 292,000 for the same period a year previously.
The ASCL said the increase in free school meal eligibility illustrates the financial impact of the pandemic on families.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the organisation, said: “Child poverty was already a terrible blight on our society prior to coronavirus.
“The situation is now even worse, and tackling this issue simply has to be a top priority for the Government.”
The school leaders’ union NAHT said the Government can no longer ignore the evidence of the rise in the number of children getting free school meals.
The Department for Education said it was providing a £14 billion increase in school funding over three years.
A spokeswoman added: “School leaders can target our ambitious recovery funding, worth £3 billion in total, to further support disadvantaged pupils with their attainment.”