Just one Dartford primary school opened for the new term unable to provide free hot meals – but Kent County Council has warned government funding is not enough.

Schools across Dartford and Gravesham have successfully put into practice the £1bn national scheme, which aims to provide free hot meals for every child aged five to seven nationwide. 

All schools except for one – Wilmington Primary School, which is in the process of rebuilding its kitchen facilities – will be providing hot meals for their Key Stage One students.

However, Kent County Council cabinet member for education and health reform Councillor Roger Gough said: "The funding provided for free school meals falls well short of what is needed and schools have to use the money creatively." 

He added: "We have been given £2.77m from the government for our maintained schools and £553, 788 for the voluntary aided schools. 

"We have put new kitchens in 12 schools which cannot produce their own lunches although some of those schools would never have the scope to add a kitchen. 

"Sixty of these schools will be bringing in more than 100 meals per day. The £2.7m allows us to provide a meal for every infant in Kent but to have done it properly we would have probably needed about £7m."

The scheme has received a mixed reception, as critics claim investing the money in classrooms would have been more beneficial.  

However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who introduced the project, argued that the importance of a healthy serving of food is not to be undermined. 

He said: "The evidence, and this has been exhaustively analysed, piloted, examined, is that giving a healthy hot meal at lunchtime is as, if not more, effective than many of the, say, literacy and numeracy initiatives which have been undertaken in the past in the classroom."

Chief executive of the Children’s Society Matthew Reed supports Mr Clegg’s scheme. He said: "The extension of free school meals to all infants in the country is a positive step in the fight against child poverty."