The Department for Education says it does not know how many vouchers for free school meals have been delivered to parents over the past month.
A scheme to give poor pupils in England vouchers worth £15 a week until schools reopen has been beset with problems.
Some school staff have had to stay up late into the night to access the online system, while many parents cannot download the vouchers.
Edenred, which runs the scheme, said it was aware of problems.
About 1.3 million children in England are eligible for free school meals.
One school, in Worcestershire, unable to access vouchers for their vulnerable families for the past fortnight, turned to a charity to provide food parcels.
Pinvin Federation advisory head teacher Judith Tinsley said the system “has been a nightmare”.
“It’s complicated, overloaded, we’ve got families who’ve not received a voucher for 10 days, that’s two weeks’ worth of vouchers,” she said.
“They have received the codes but then the system has not allowed them in to redeem their codes.
“And then some of our families that have actually managed to get that far have turned up at the supermarket and not been able to use them against their shopping.”
In Wembley, north London, Elsley Primary School has resorted to food parcels and vouchers bought from its own budget.
Head teacher Raphael Moss has even had to use his own personal credit card.
From the outset, he said, the “unnecessarily complicated” system had thrown up “a catalogue of errors, of chaos really, with the system not being able to cope”.
In Bodmin, Cornwall, school catering manager Jo Wotton said she had paid for a family’s shopping after the mother’s voucher code failed at a supermarket till.
“She only had £3 in her purse,” she told BBC News.
“The shopping was £16 – it was obvious she had counted her money really carefully, going round the supermarket.
“She had a small child with her.
“I could see she was getting really flustered.”
The checkout worker told her the supermarket had seen several vouchers fail the same day.
Heather McNeillis, a mother of four children under 10, three of whom are eligible for free school meals, said she had waited two weeks for her first vouchers.
“The money matters – we’ve been able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables because of it,” she said.
But she has been unable to download her current vouchers, worth £45, as the website keeps crashing.
“It suggests you log on at 04:00 as that’s a quiet time,” she said.
“I’ve had it on my computer all day, trying several different ways.
“And it’s always a long wait… and an error code.”
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devised their own systems for helping their vulnerable pupils, which are more straightforward and have had fewer reported problems than the English system.
The Department for Education and Edenred said £35m worth of vouchers had been redeemed over the past month.
However, neither were able to say what proportion of that total were orders registered for the 15,500 schools signed up to the system, as opposed to vouchers actually delivered in a useable form to families.
The Department for Education told BBC News: “We do not have this data available at this time.”
They also said they did not know how many eligible children had been registered with the scheme, though they said the total number of schools on the system represented about 70% of those that qualified for the programme.
They did, however, say schools that could not make the Edenred system work would be reimbursed for creating alternative schemes.
“We are providing additional funding to schools to cover unavoidable costs incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak that cannot be met from their existing resources – including free school meal costs which are not covered by the national voucher system.”
In a statement, Edenred said: “The free school meals voucher scheme is helping thousands of families and the vast majority of codes and vouchers are being redeemed successfully.
“We are aware that some schools have faced long wait times when using the site.
“We would like to thank each and every person who has faced issues in the process of ordering codes and e-gift cards for their patience, particularly given the other pressures facing schools at this time.”
One of London’s most famous music venues has been badly damaged in an overnight blaze.
The dome on the roof of Koko in Camden has been destroyed by fire, according to the London Fire Brigade.
Sixty firefighters helped fight the flames after the blaze broke out just before 21:00 GMT on Monday and no injuries have been reported.
The venue which began life as the Camden Theatre in 1900 has hosted stars including Madonna, Coldplay and Prince.
Station commander Jon Lewis said the fire was brought under control at about 02:30 on Tuesday, adding: “Firefighters’ quick action and hard work in the early stages meant the fire was contained to the roof and saved the rest of the building.”
Koko owner Olly Bengough said he was “deeply saddened” by the blaze, adding: “We’ll be doing our best to get the redevelopment of this iconic building back on track.”
Crews will remain at the scene throughout the day and have warned people to stay away from the area.
Koko which was closed for refurbishment, was also previously known as the Camden Palace and Camden Hippodrome and has been one of the capital’s most iconic live music venues for decades.
The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Ed Sheeran are among other star names to have performed at the venue, which is close to Mornington Crescent underground station.
It was reportedly the last venue where AC/DC’s Bon Scott was seen drinking before his death from alcohol poisoning in 1980.
In the early 80s it served as a major venue for the punk and New Romantic scene, with singer Steve Strange of the band Visage holding club nights.
Members of the public have been sharing their Koko memories on Twitter.
Marc Rustic was “absolutely gutted” having seen his first grime gig at Koko.
“MoStack was performing and it was honestly the best night of my life,” he added.
Veteran DJ Tony Blackburn who held his legendary soul nights Shakatak also tweeted about the fire.
Koko and the nearby Roundhouse effectively “bookended” Camden’s music scene, according to music writer Carl Allen.
In between the two are 60 music venues including the Dingwalls and Electric Ballroom, as well as restaurants and pubs.
On Twitter the Roundhouse said it was “really sad” to hear the news about our Camden neighbours.
Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said: “Heartbreaking watching the Camden Palace/Koko up in flames this evening, a building that holds so many memories and means so much to us in Camden.”
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan thanked the fire brigade for its quick response.
The venue was set to reopen in the spring after a “major state-of-the-art” refurbishment, after the purchase of two adjacent buildings.
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Norwich midfielder Kenny McLean is a doubt to face Crystal Palace because of a foot problem.
Josip Drmic is not expected to return until the weekend, while Ben Godfrey and Timm Klose are long-term absentees.
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is again expected to be without a host of first-team players.
Christian Benteke, Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend, Joel Ward and Patrick van Aanholt are all on the sidelines.
Hodgson has revealed that Martin Kelly played with a muscle strain against Southampton, while Cheikhou Kouyate has said he has a groin issue.
MOTD COMMENTATOR’S NOTES
@chriswisey: There has been a VAR hurricane swirling around the Premier League in recent days, and both Norwich and Crystal Palace found themselves in the eye of the storm.
Norwich really do need to start making marginal gains on those above them. They were the only team in the bottom three not to win during the festive period.
Unsurprisingly, history doesn’t favour teams bottom of the table at the start of the new year. But the Canaries are determined to prove that their attractive, attacking approach is the method to escape the minefield.
VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT
Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke: “The quicker we can get 25 points, the easier we make the period where the mind games begin.
“That is why we go game to game. Don’t be too down or too high with each result.
“We know our situation and what we are trying to achieve. We are the only self-funded club on this level, and compared to the other teams we were not able to spend any money.”
There’s a real spirit about Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s side have come from behind to pick up points against Brighton and West Ham recently.
Norwich are not playing badly and are creating lots of chances. They’re also due a win and went close to beating Tottenham on Saturday.
- Norwich have won only two of the past 18 league meetings.
- Palace have won three of their last four away league games against Norwich, as many as they managed in their previous 15 visits to Carrow Road.
- Norwich have their worst record after 20 matches of a top-flight campaign (W3, D4, L13).
- They have won just one of their last 15 league games and are winless in seven.
- Daniel Farke’s side have conceded at least twice in nine successive top-flight home games, the second longest such run in Premier League history behind Wolves’ 11 in 2012.
- They were the only Premier League side without a win in December, despite leading in five of their seven matches. The Canaries dropped 12 points from winning positions, the most by a team in a single month in Premier League history.
- The side bottom of the Premier League going into a new year has been relegated in 23 of the previous 27 seasons, though three of the four to avoid relegation have done so in the past six seasons.
- Crystal Palace have won just one of their last six Premier League away games, after winning five of the previous seven.
- Roy Hodgson’s side are unbeaten in their 10 matches against the teams who start 2020 in the bottom nine (W6, D4).
- They have scored just four first-half goals this season, with a league-high 78% of their goals coming after the break. The fastest league goal by the Eagles this season was a Luka Milivojevic penalty in the 21st minute against Norwich on 28 September.
- Fourteen of the Eagles’ 20 league games this season were goalless at half-time, which is six more than any other side.
A 60-year-old man has been stabbed to death in a residential street in south London.
Police and ambulance crews were called to reports of a stabbing in Woodcroft Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon, at 21:30 GMT on Monday.
The victim was found outside a property with knife injuries and was pronounced dead at 21:49, the Met Police said.
A 50-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and taken into custody.
The suspect became unwell while in custody and was transferred to hospital where he is in a stable condition, police said.
Det Ch Insp Simon Harding said: “The victim was found injured in a residential street. While it is not a heavy footfall location, there may have been members of the public travelling through Woodcroft Road who saw something.
“I urge those people to come forward and speak to my officers without delay.
“No matter how insignificant you think it may be please do make the call.
“We are building the sequence of events leading up to and immediately following this attack which has led to a man’s death, your call could complete the picture.”
Inquiries into the circumstances continue.
Singer Ellie Goulding came to the aid of a driver whose car was being pushed sideways along a road by a lorry.
Footage shows a Volkswagen GTi being pushed down Western Avenue, A40, by a Royal Mail delivery lorry near the Greenford roundabout in west London.
Goulding posted on Instagram to criticise other drivers who got out to film the crash and “shout abuse” at the lorry driver.
The Royal Mail says it is investigating the crash.
The truck driver appears astonished to see the car in front of his vehicle, claiming he did not see it, or know it was there.
He can be heard yelling: “I didn’t see him, I honestly didn’t see him.”
Goulding told her 14.4 million Instagram followers: “On a side note, I can’t believe the first instinct of the other drivers who got out was to instantly start filming on their phones and shout abuse at the poor shocked driver, not even checking the other driver was okay.
“What on earth.”
Goulding told BBC Radio 1 she intervened because “no-one was stopping”.
She said: “I think people were desperate to get to work. All these people were just driving on.
“We just drove up right next to it [the lorry] to be like ‘Mate, you’ve got a car on you!'”
The driver who was dragged along the road later messaged the singer “to just say he was OK,” she added.
The Met Police said there were no reported injuries and no arrests have been made.
A Royal Mail spokesman added: “We are very concerned about this incident. We sincerely hope that no one was hurt. We are investigating as a matter of urgency.”
Road safety campaigner Rebecca Ashton told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she hoped it was not a stunt.
She said: “He must have been able to hear the scraping of the tyres – possibly a feeling of pushing a car.”
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London’s tallest landmark has been lit up in the lead up to the end of 2019.
Between 16:00 and 01:00 the next morning until 30 December, the top 20 floors of The Shard will be illuminated as part of three nine-minute sequences.
The designs have been created by the school children.
Boris Johnson has said the “grim reality” is that “some people can’t be rehabilitated” in prison.
The PM called for longer sentences and an end to automatic release after convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two people on London Bridge on Friday.
The father of Jack Merritt, one of the victims, says he would not wish his son’s death “to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences”.
Labour have accused Mr Johnson of using the attack for political ends.
And in an article for the Guardian, Mr Merritt’s father Dave said his son “would be livid his death has been used to further an agenda of hate”.
“What Jack would want from this is for all of us to walk through the door he has booted down, in his black Doc Martens,” he wrote.
“That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and throw away the key. Where we do not give indeterminate sentences, or convict people on joint enterprise.
“Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on rehabilitation not revenge.”
Mr Johnson denied claims he was politicising the attack, saying he had campaigned against early release for some time, having previously raised the issue during his 2012 campaign to be mayor of London.
“I feel, as everybody does, a huge amount of sympathy for the loss of Jack Merritt’s family, and indeed for all the relatives of Jack and Saskia, who perished at London Bridge,” he said.
“But be in no doubt, I’ve campaigned against early release and against short sentences for many years.”
‘Tough to crack’
He said he has a bill “ready to go” in the Queen’s Speech, if his party were elected to power on 12 December, to stop automatic early release for serious and violent offenders.
“We have too many people who are released automatically onto our streets and we need to address that,” he said.
The Conservative Party leader said Khan should not have qualified for automatic early release from prison after he was jailed in 2012 over a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
Asked about the fact that Khan was not deradicalised in prison, under the watch of the Conservatives, Mr Johnson replied: “When we look at the problems that we come across in trying to deradicalise people, we have to face the grim reality that in some case it really is very difficult and I think this was one of those cases.”
He said Khan’s case showed “some people can’t be rehabilitated”.
“Unquestionably there are some cases to tough to crack and alas he was one of them,” Mr Johnson said.
The prime minister said on Sunday that 74 people jailed for terror offences and released early will have their licence conditions reviewed.
Mr Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were honoured at vigils in London and Cambridge on Monday.
‘System under stress’
Khan was given a special jail term known as Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP), which meant he would serve at least eight years and could not be released unless he had convinced the Parole Board he was no longer a threat.
But in 2013, the Court of Appeal replaced the sentence with a 16-year-fixed term of which Khan should serve half in prison.
He was released on licence in December 2018 – subject to an “extensive list of licence conditions”, police said.
Khan was shot dead by police on London Bridge on Friday.
No-one sentenced to a terrorism offence is now subject to automatic early release under current laws.
Former justice minister Philip Lee, who defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats over Brexit, criticised his former party’s record on prisons,
He said the London Bridge attack highlighted “a system that was under stress” and one in need of “proper funding and proper reform”.
He added that the criminal justice system “had to bear the brunt of quite significant cuts to its funding” and during his time as justice minister he “never really felt it was a priority in government to fund justice, because it doesn’t tend to be a vote winner”.
“It only becomes a vote loser when things start to go wrong, or when people think mistake have been made and that’s what happened in this particular case,” he said.
“The prime minister is notorious for being loose with the truth. And now he’s waded in to something incredibly complex, and starts talking about we need to ‘bang them up’ for longer.
“That might play well in some simplistic way, but you need to address capacity of the prison places. You do that by the police, prisons and probation all working together.
In an ITV election debate on Sunday, Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said he was “very uncomfortable with the way the discussion from the Conservatives moves straight from a tragedy to reheating pre-packaged political lines smearing the Labour Party”.
He added: “I think our democracy, regardless of our parties, should be better than that”.
But Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: “I think these people should never ever be let out prison unless we are absolutely convinced they do not have the jihadi virus. But political correctness stops us from doing that.”
Fulham’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic is available to return for the visit of Derby County after serving a ban.
Aboubakar Kamara, who scored two goals in Friday’s win over QPR while deputising for the Serb, may drop out.
Derby will check on midfielder Graeme Shinnie (hamstring) and forward Mason Bennett (ankle), who were both forced off during their win over Preston.
Matt Clarke, Scott Malone and Tom Huddlestone (all knee) and Ikechi Anya (calf) remain sidelined.
- Fulham have lost just one of their past 14 home league matches against Derby County (W7 D6 L1), a 1-0 defeat in April 1969.
- Six of the past seven league meetings between Fulham and Derby at Craven Cottage have ended as draws.
- Fulham have a higher possession figure (66.6%) and high percentage of short passes (90.2%) than any other team in the Championship this season.
- Derby have not lost four consecutive away league matches since March 2017 under Steve McClaren.
- Fulham striker Aboubakar Kamara has scored doubles in each of his last two Championship starts at Craven Cottage, doing so in January 2018 against Ipswich and in their last home game against QPR.
- Derby have won none of their past 11 away league visits to London (D7 L4) with their last win in the capital in December 2016 away at QPR.
Two teenagers have been jailed for life for murdering a 17-year-old girl in an east London park.
Jodie Chesney was stabbed in the back as she sat with friends in Harold Hill on 1 March.
Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, and Arron Isaacs, 17, of Barking, were both convicted earlier this month after a trial at the Old Bailey.
Ong-a-Kwie, of Romford, will serve a minimum of 26 years while Isaacs was detained for at least 18 years.
Explaining the sentences, Judge Wendy Joseph QC told the court she was “satisfied” Ong-a-Kwie had stabbed Jodie while Isaacs was a “willing supporter”.
“When that knife was driven into Jodie, that intention was to kill,” she said.
She added that her death “was part of a series of tit-for-tat attacks” which had been “increasing in ferocity”, and “although the target was not Jodie… there was a degree of planning”.
During the trial, each of the defendants blamed each other for the attack but a jury took less than six hours to find them both guilty of murder.
In an impact statement read before sentencing, Jodie’s father Peter Chesney said the death of his daughter “has destroyed my life”.
The 39-year-old, who was not in court, described how a year ago he had started a new job as a salesman in the City “and I was about to take over the world in a promising career.
“Now I sit here in the cabin in my garden writing this statement. I have left that job, the relationship with my wife has fallen apart and we are now getting divorced. I must sell my house, and above all, I have lost the most precious human being I will ever know,” he said.
Following the stabbing, Jodie collapsed into the arms of her boyfriend Eddie Coyle who told the court he had been “completely changed” by the events of that night.
“I find it hard to sleep most of the time. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD from this, and it keeps me up most nights so I don’t sleep,” he said.
The court had heard drug dealer Ong-a-Kwie and his runner Isaacs had been looking to take revenge on rivals but had killed Jodie by mistake.
She had been socialising with friends that evening when two figures emerged out of the dark and one plunged a knife in her back.
The two defendants fled in another drug dealer’s car but were arrested together days later as they fled from a house linked to Isaacs, the jury were told.
Ong-a-Kwie had convictions for possessing and supplying drugs and had admitted being in breach of a six-week suspended sentence for handling stolen jewellery.
Two other people – Manuel Petrovic, 20, of Romford, and a 16-year-old boy – were both cleared of murder and manslaughter.
Met Police officer Det Insp Perry Benton described the investigation as “one of the hardest I’ve ever dealt with”, adding that the defendants “have shown no remorse from day one”.
Speaking following the sentencing, Jodie’s uncle Terry Chesney said the family were “happy” with the jail terms and would now “try” to get on with their lives.
“Today was justice. We’ll never get her back, but we’ve got justice,” he said.
The Green Party has stood down its candidate to help Labour try to unseat former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.
Mr Duncan Smith has been MP for Chingford and Woodford Green since 1997, and has a majority of 2,348.
The Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru formed an electoral pact earlier this month. Supporting Labour in Chingford does not form part of that pact, the Greens said.
The Conservatives have been contacted for comment.
In a statement the local Green Party said the decision for John Tyne not to contest the election was made with the “ultimate hope of favouring the campaign of the Labour candidate” Faiza Shaheen.
A Green Party spokesperson it “was a decision taken by the local party”.
However, they added: “If Labour were serious in their concern for the environment they should reconsider their isolationist position on arrangements.”
Ms Shaheen, head of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, said she was “so grateful” for the decision.
She said: “I will continue to fight hard for climate policy and democratic reform.”
The Liberal Democrats have selected Dr Geoffrey Seeff as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency.
Mr Duncan Smith has been MP for the area since 1992, representing Chingford until 1997 when the boundaries were re-drawn to include Woodford Green.
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