PARENTS in Thurrock stand to save £2.3million per year as the the Government introduces free school meals for children aged four to seven.

The new initiative will be introduced when youngsters return to school in September.

The Government estimates that 5,800 children in the borough - aged between four and seven - will be eligible for free school lunches, saving parents £400 per child, which is the estimated annual spend on school lunches.

Free school meals for children over seven - or in school year three and above - will continue to be means tested.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: "Free school meals for infants will not only save families hundreds of pounds a year but will also have an impact on how a child performs in the classroom so that, regardless of their background, every child can have the best possible start in life.

"This is one of the most progressive changes to our school system for a long time. My goal is to create a level playing field for all of our children so their success will be determined by their talents and efforts alone and not by their parents’ bank balance."

The Government claims that parents can also rest assured that their young ones will recieve a healthy and nutritious lunch, owing to its standards for school meals. Studies conducted by the Children's Food Trust show that just one per cent of packed lunches meet these standards.

It is also hoped that the introduction of this initative will also help towards reducing childhood obesity. The latest figures for Thurrock show that almost a quarter of Thurrock's ten-year-olds are obese.

*Parents, do you welcome this? Do you stand to save money? Or will you still be sending your little ones to school with a packed lunch? Join the debate on our Facebook page.