Too much on our plate to handle

Free school dinners
Free school dinners

Catering staff in local schools claim they are overworked after the number of children taking up free school meals increased.

And a former council employee has hit out at the workload on behalf of ex-colleagues, saying staff themselves are worried about speaking out.

Robert McComb told the Herald: ‘‘They didn’t recruit any additional staff to meet the demand. The excuse they give is that because of the current review of structures many employees would be displaced and the additional posts that are required now in the schools would be future opportunities for displaced employees.

‘‘I understand their thinking as it makes sense to do this. However, from the 5th of January the uptake of meals has risen dramatically as most qualifying pupils have taken up the free meals.

‘‘It stands to reason that if you double the amount of demand but don’t increase the people who prepare the food then you have a problem.

‘‘I was contacted by someone who works in one of the schools which are affected and they tell me it’s been almost impossible to meet the additional demands. They are fearful for their job if they speak out so asked me to contact the Herald. The council could have used temporary bank staff and this could have been prepared months ago.They have done this in the past.

‘‘The council was aware of the initiative almost a year ago. They could have planned additional bank staff to be in place months ago. Once the displaced staff were interviewed they could have been placed permanently in the schools as bank staff are there on a temporary basis.’’

Grace Irvine, director of neighbourhood services said: ‘‘Free school meals were introduced at the beginning of this month.

“In preparation for this additional resources were arranged to ensure there was enough capacity to cope with the forecasted increased demand.

‘‘The calculation on how much additional resource would be required was based on our productivity and the predicted uptake, which was taken from a previous free school meals pilot the council carried out from 2010-2013 for all P1-P3 across 12 of our schools.

“The initiative is being monitored very closely and over the coming weeks resourcing levels will be adjusted as necessary once the final uptake is known.’’