Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 20:21 UK

Fewer pupils eating school meals

Generic chips in school canteens
Chips will soon be banned completely in school canteens

Uptake of school meals in secondary schools has dropped sharply since ministers first launched healthy eating policies, it has emerged.

Scottish Government figures showed only 39% of secondary pupils ate lunch in the school canteen compared with 49% five years ago.

But in primary schools, where nutrition regulations came into effect last year, meal uptake has increased slightly.

The government said it was disappointed by the secondary school figures.

Secondary schools will be obliged by law to serve only healthy food from August, in line with the regulations introduced in primary schools last August.

The figures showed school meal uptake had increased marginally to 48.2% in primary schools over the past four years.

'Healthy and tasty'

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is very encouraging to see the increased uptake in primary schools, which suggests that the nutritional regulations have bedded in and primary pupils are enjoying the healthy, nutritious meals on offer.

"The drop in secondary schools is disappointing but not unexpected as schools have been making the transition to new regulations.

"Although overall school lunch uptake was down slightly, several authorities reported significant increases. We need other authorities to learn from this good practice so that more of our pupils enjoy the healthy and tasty school lunches on offer."

The survey also found that the percentage of pupils registered for free school meals was 15.2%, down slightly from 15.4% in 2008.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Margaret Smith MSP said: "These figures highlight the problems that local authorities in Scotland continue to have in actually identifying those who are entitled to free school meals.

"They also show that after extensive promotion from ministers the number of pupils actually taking up free school meals across Scotland has continued to fall.

"This is a clear signal that rolling out universal free school meals across Scotland is not the best way to tackle the problem of poor diet amongst our children."

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