Free school meals are on the rise 

By Courtney Stevens

The percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals has increased by nearly 10 per cent since the January 2015/16 school year. 

The pandemic has seen a sharp rise in those eligible for free school meals as parents have struggled with losing income due to not working.  

In England, all school pupils in reception, year one and year two in state schools can get a free school meal. 

Children who are older and not in those year groups may also be eligible for free school meals if they fit a certain criteria ie parents claim benefits or they earn less than £7,400 a year. 

The graph below shows the percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals in January of each year in state funded schools for all ages: 

In January 2018/19 15.4 per cent of pupils were eligible for free school meals before the pandemic but this has risen to 22.5 per cent of pupils in January 2021/22 after the pandemic.

This steep increase could be explained by parents being out of work due to the pandemic who are therefore on lower incomes than they would have been before.  

Before the pandemic, the difference in pupils on free school meals was small between January 2015/16 and January 2018/19.

There were increases and decreases in the number but the percentage stayed around 15 per cent for those three years, suggesting parents were earning a similar amount of money each year. 

However, in the years between January 2018/19 and January 2021/22, the number of pupils on free school meals rose more than the previous three years, highlighting how more children are living in low income families than before.  

The pressures on parents to have enough money to feed their children whilst also having enough money to pay for bills and other necessary expenses has led to them relying more on free school meals. 

The government scheme for free school meals has become increasingly more important and is something that families cannot afford to lose.  

Man from USA appeals for help to track his family in Leicester

By Azim Saiyed

An American has made a public appeal for help to find his grandmother’s family who live in Leicester after many years of not having any contact with them.

Nicholas Encinas, 29, from Washington, is aiming to discover the whereabouts of his grand uncles and aunts who he claims are still living in Leicester, specifically the Wigston area.

Nicholas said: “I just want to connect with my lost family and keep in touch with them so I can eventually visit them.

“Because my grandma left the UK after World War II to be with my grandpa who served in the 82nd Airborne US military, she left her whole family behind and it’s them whom I’m looking for.

“She was born in Wigston because I saw her passport but I’m not sure about her siblings.

“To me, it would only make sense to believe they still live there.”

The attempt to revive the relationship with his family in England is very important to Nicholas who is determined to overcome any challenges in its way.

His grandmother’s name was Pauline Margaret Nichols, and the only relative Nicholas remembers the name of, is his grand uncle, Keith Ladkin.

Nicholas said: “Family is very important to me, it’s something I value a lot in life and knowing that I have some more out there somewhere just makes me happy.

“Even though they are thousands of miles away, I will not give up trying to find them. It will be rewarding for me spend some time with them.”

His grand uncle, Mr Ladkin, donated a book containing the names of Jews and Germans from World War II to the Rutland County Museum in Oakham.

Nicholas believes the museum would be the best starting point to successfully locate his lost family members.

If you have any information that would help Nicholas, then please email him at:

DMU fashion students hope to create a future business as a sustainable solution to denim waste

By Lara Alsaid

De Montfort University (DMU) Fashion Buying with Marketing students have been given a project in their business entrepreneur module where they must design an original product or service within fashion.

Second year students Gemma MacMillan and Sian Norris designed a business called “Denim Days” that works on the principle of upcycling denim, where they would repair, re-make and re-sell denim wear.

Gemma said:” We value that people would consider sustainability.”

Website mockup of the business project Denim Days

The assignment was given at the beginning of 2022 and since then Gemma and Sian have come a long way with developing their idea of business.

They started off by doing research to make sure it would be profitable and that there would be a need for the product in society.

Later on, they did surveys to sense how people deal with their unusable clothes.  

For decades, the popularity of denim never died out – denim has always been popular in the market.

The motivation to create a sustainable business comes from previous experiences where Sian had worked in charity shops and had seen loads of product donations and waste which made her more passionate about sustainability.

Gemma had also worked in a charity shop and is very active on the second-hand app Depop where she sells and buys most of her clothes.

Gemma explained: “I do not like things sitting in my wardrobe and I needed to make money, so I became a regular user of the second-hand app.”

Hypothetically, the launch of the business would be in September, to take place in the annual Freshers’ Fair and would be advertised on the DMU campus, as young adults and students are their target market.

The younger generation who are becoming more educated about sustainability and the importance of it are the target audience for this idea.

Denim Days’ market plan is to be active on social media to expand the business and make use of algorithms.

Social media mockup: Denim Days Instagram account

They believe that this idea could come to life but the biggest challenges it could face are that production will take a long time and bigger businesses could notice and copy the idea.

Another challenge is that fast fashion is more affordable and convenient and so people may choose to replace their clothing instead of sending them to get fixed by businesses such as Denim Days.

The recognition of sustainable alternatives is constantly increasing and improving and the pair hope to see businesses such as their proposal come to life in the near future.

Students in Leicester entered into prize draw as reward for voting in DMU Students’ Union elections

By Liv Messum

Students at De Montfort University (DMU) can win a range of exciting prizes simply by voting in the DMU Students’ Union elections. 

Voting ended at 11.59pm yesterday(MON,MAR14) and there were many cool prizes to be won. 

The prizes included Apple Airpods, a millennium falcon Lego set, a Hotel Chocolate velvetiser, a Virgin experience day voucher worth £75, a £50 Deliveroo voucher, Leicester City FC tickets and Leicester Tigers rugby tickets. 

Every student who voted was automatically entered into the prize draw. 

To see the results on the DMU Students’ Union website, visit:

DSU celebrates International Women’s Day

By Courtney Stevens

Staff and students at De Montfort University are marking international women’s day (IWD) today(TUE,MARCH8) by hosting a number of events throughout the week.
IWD is part of women’s history month and aims to celebrate women and raise awareness of gender inequality.
The theme for this year’s IWD is #BreakTheBias which is about challenging gender bias, discrimination, and inequality in all areas of life.
Celebrations started yesterday with a body positivity mannequin which students could stick positive messages onto.
There was also placard making and a silent protest on the campus building steps to show solidarity with women across DMU and the world in general.
Other events include talks with inspirational women around breaking the bias, sexual health, and female perceptions of the workplace.
Bradie McDaid, the De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) advice and well-being coordinator, said he had put a lot of thought into the day’s events.

“I think DSU tends to be as inclusive as possible, just under half of our students are female or female identifying,” he said.
“We want to make sure that DSU is a safe space for everybody and that all people deserved to be encouraged.
“Our female students are valid, they are important, and they deserve to be celebrated.”