04/09/2014 16:46 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Nick Clegg Answers School Meals Criticism From 'Nine-Year-Old' Boy On Radio Show


The Coalition's newest education policy, the introduction of free school meals for all primary age pupils, has proved controversial, with reports of schools underfunded and underprepared for the new influx of school meals.

But the latest opponent to raise objections came in an unexpected form - a spookily informed schoolboy who harangued Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg over the policy live on air.

The on-air clash between Clegg, 47, and Rohan, nine, occurred during the deputy Prime Minister's weekly appearance on phone-in show Call Clegg on London radio station LBC.

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The caller, who identified himself as a pupil at a South London school, wasted no time before launching into a scathing criticism of the universal school meals

"I was wondering why you decided to introduce free school meals, which is a very expensive product," the precocious politico began, "when at my school they're quite unhealthy and the evidence shows that the don't make children behave or achieve better."

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari was bowled over by Rohan's eloquence, exclaiming "Are you only nine?"

It seemed, however, that Clegg had his suspicions about the identity of the caller, often appearing to suppress a smile as he listened to the Year 5 attack Government policies with confidence beyond his years.

There was a definite note of doubt in the deputy PM's voice as asked his debate partner whether he should be in school, calling him 'one of the most articulate nine-year-olds I've ever come across'.

Despite any misgivings he may have held about the identity of his detractor, Clegg valiantly responded to Rohan's critique with the Government's evidence for the beneficial effects of universal school meals on children's health and ability to learn.

Rohan refused to be cowed, however, citing numbers with an ease that eludes some professional politicians: "I have seen the evidence and it wasn't very big, the percentage point increase," he told Clegg. "It was only 1.9 in one of the trials. And also it was bigger for key stage 2, than key stage 1."

The deputy PM couldn't resist a sly attempt to winkle out the secret to Rohan's strangely self-assured attack on the Coalition policy.

Complimenting the lad on his use of statistics, Clegg slipped in a cheeky "Who have you done that with?". Rohan, however, remained unflustered, insisting that he had done the research on his own.

All in all, the deputy prime minister sounded distinctly relieved when the school bell sounded, forcing Rohan to let him off the hook. For now, at least - if 'Rohan' is really a nine-year-old boy, we probably haven't heard the last of him in the world of politics.

More on Parentdish: Free school meals