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.  

Rock band Spear of Destiny set to play Nuneaton gig with release of new album

By Courtney Stevens

Spear of Destiny set to play Queens Hall during UK tour (Image: Publicity picture)

By Courtney Stevens

Spear of Destiny are set to play at Queens Hall in Nuneaton on Sunday, December 4, as part of their UK tour.

The tour is to mark the release of their new album Ghost Population which was released on November 18.

The 23-date live tour kicks off in Leeds today (NOV22), includes Nottingham Rescue Rooms on December 13 and finishes in Manchester on December 17.

Ghost Population will be the band’s 15th studio album and it covers a range of themes from personal to political plus it covers the evolution of the band from past to present.

The tour will give audiences a chance to hear songs from the new album live for the first time.

Since reforming in the late 1990s, ringleader Kirk Brandon has supervised a major reissue campaign of the band’s back catalogue, playing sell out shows at venues such as London’s 100 club and Manchester’s Ritz, joining festival line ups and relentlessly writing new music.

Next year will mark 40 years since the formation of the band in 1983 and since then their punk-influenced power rock has gained a following in the UK.

Spear of Destiny have had a changing line up through the years, but this tour will feature their longest serving line up to date, including Adrian Portas (New Model Army/Sex Gang Children), Craig Adams (Sisters of Mercy/The Cult/The Mission) and Phil Martini (Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind), as well as Clive Osborne on saxophone and Steve Allen-Jones on keys.

Tickets are available here: https://kirkbrandon.com/shows

UK tour dates for Spear of Destiny 2022

Society at DMU raises awareness about Islamophobia

By Amina Ali

DMU’s Islamic Society is hosting Islamophobia Awareness Month all throughout November to raise awareness about Islamophobia and its impact.

Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) was founded in 2012 by Muslim organisations to showcase the positive contributions of British Muslims as well as raising awareness about how they are discriminated against across the UK.

The Islamic Society’s Head Sister at DMU, who did not want to be named, said: “Take the loan system for example.

“Islam is a whole system and within that system one of the laws is that we don’t engage with ‘riba’ which is interest.

“So, it’s really hard for Muslims to follow that law in the West, which is an example of institutionalized Islamophobia.”

She added: “Even with the hijab and niqab bans in our neighbouring countries, the governments claim to have a valid reason for them when in reality it’s just trying to put further restraints on Muslims being Muslim.”

To kick-start the campaign, ISOC will be hosting ‘Try on A Hijab’ and ‘Islamic Literature’ stalls on Wednesday (NOV23) at The Campus Centre to encourage other students to ask questions and to learn more about Muslims and Islam.

On Tuesday, November 29, the Muslim Engagement and Development Company (MEND) will do doing a talk at DMU about tackling the denial of Islamophobia that is so prevalent in British society.

The location of this talk is yet to be confirmed.

MEND is a ‘not for profit company’ which aims to “empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities to be more actively involved in British media and politics.”

Its members try to meet this aim by encouraging Muslims to vote, become politically engaged and equip them with the skills, resources and materials to contribute to the positive and sustained development of a Britain in which all members of society are valued and respected.

If you would like to learn more about Islamophobia Awareness Month or about The Islamic Society’s future events, you can follow them at @dmuisoc on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Former DMU Lion becomes leader of the pride

De Montfort University’s DMU Lions American football team is being led by new head coach Josh Seybert. Rian Fearnehough finds out what motivated him to take on the role after he played for the team last season as a visiting scholar.

Former DMU Lion becomes leader of the pride
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Read more: https://leicestershirepress.com/2022/03/03/from-lawrence-to-leicester/: Former DMU Lion becomes leader of the pride

Students discuss their experiences with antidepressants and deduce the stigma surrounding dependency and reliance 

By Kelly Gowe

The prevalence of antidepressant prescription is astounding with 70 million prescriptions written last year for the 7 million adults who used them.  

It is time to take a more nuanced approach: Antidepressants can be lifesaving for some people while having no effect on others.  

But who are we to say that someone is wrong if they see it as a last resort or something to make them feel better? The stigma must be lifted. 

I interviewed two students about their university experiences with SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) to see how the medication affected their lives. 

Valuable: Abubakr Razak (left) and Heebah Hussain found antidepressants helped them

Abubakr Razak, 19, began taking SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) while studying law.  

He had struggled with anxiety and depression throughout college, which led him to being prescribed an SSRI called Sertraline. 

“I often had anxiety in social situations,” he said. “But very traumatic situations as a child eventually built up to this. My SSRIs were paired with talking therapy, which helped massively.” 

He said they made him feel “level” throughout university and found dealing with difficulties a lot easier. 

Heebah Hussain, 18, said: “I’d encourage anyone in a dark place to think ‘If I were really physically unwell, would I take medicine to help me feel better?’” 

Unfortunately, many people are still reluctant to take medication for their mental health because society has often portrayed it as a sign of failure.  

In fact, making such a decision for yourself is a sign of strength. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you require some additional assistance. 

So, even if you are aware of the risks, your only option is to take it or leave it; our mental health system lacks ambition. 

If you are a student who is struggling, I strongly advise you to reach out to others, even if it is just one person.  

If you know a loved one who is struggling, you can  find out more about how to help here

You can contact the Mind helpline by calling 0300 123 3393.