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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Surge in school meals predicted
School dinners
A huge increase has been forecast in school meal uptake
A council taking part in a six-month free school meals pilot project has forecast a huge increase in uptake.

The Borders was one of five areas chosen by the Scottish Government for the scheme for children in the first three years of primary education.

Numbers taking school meals have been predicted to rise from just more than 3,000 to about 4,800.

The council believes the impact will be significant because of the current low rate of meal uptake in the region.

Free school meals for children up to age seven at Borders schools will start on 29 October.

Glasgow, East Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and Fife are the other areas taking part in the pilot programme.

Extra staff and equipment are already in place in the Borders.

However, a tight timescale has meant some improvements, like new kitchens at Melrose and Heriot primaries are not yet up and running.

Funding concerns

Councillors have also expressed some concerns about the costs of the scheme.

Holyrood's cash input is just short of 600,000 which is 60,000 less than the authority's estimate of the costs.

They hope that the gap will be bridged come the second instalment of money in December.

More than 35,000 children in P1 to P3 across Scotland are expected to take part in the pilot.

If successful, the Scottish Government aims to expand the project throughout the country.

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