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As part of the evaluation of universal free school meals (UFSM) for Primary 1 to 3 children in Scotland, research was undertaken with parents.

Fieldwork was conducted in February and March 2015, two to three months after implementation of the UFSM policy.

The aim of talking to parents was to provide insights to help explain variations in uptake.

Understanding parents’ perceptions of school meals also enhanced the study’s capacity to interrogate the assumptions in the theory of change that underpins the UFSM policy, as set out in our evaluability assessment.

Full report

You can download a copy of the full parents report in our publications section.

Summary of findings

Parents were generally supportive of the UFSM policy because they could identify a number of benefits including nutritional, financial and time saving. A visual summary of this can be found below.

Summary of findings from full parents report

Further questions for the evaluation

Some further points that need considered as part of the evaluation of the USFM policy are noted below.

Variation in uptake of school meals

 Parents reported variation in how often they sent their children for school meals.

  • Parents were concerned about how much children ate when they had a school meal.
  • How might this impact on the expected benefits for families and children from the policy?

Lunchtime experience

Parents had a number of concerns about how lunchtimes were managed and children’s experiences of lunchtime.

  • How have schools managed the implementation of the policy?
  • What were the barriers and facilitators?
  • Have there been any unintended consequences?

Moving into Primary 4
Parents worried about their children moving into P4, and the financial burden of paying for lunches.

  • How might the transition into P4 impact on free school meal uptake and school meal uptake?
  • How might this impact on the outcomes in the theory of change?


Last updated 26th October 2015

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