FREE lunches for primary pupils could save Southend parents £2million a year, the Government claims.

Schools must offer all pupils aged four to seven free school lunches from next month, with the Government picking up the bill.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is spearheading the initiative, 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.

“Pupils at the pilot schools who were all given free meals were found to be up to two months ahead of their peers elsewhere.

“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 estimates parents spend about £400 per year on lunches for their child and about 5,127 Southend children will be eligible for the initiative.

Whitehall has set nutritionalstandards for the meals, which only about one per cent of packed lunches meet, evidence from the Children’s Food Trust suggests.