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Free school meals


Eligibility criteria

The government sets the eligibility criteria for free meals. To find out more, visit Free school meals | East Sussex County Council.

Children must attend school both before and after the lunch period to receive a free meal.

Some pupils who are over 16 may receive a qualifying benefit in their own right. If so, they will qualify to claim free school meals.

Refugee families are not automatically eligible and should apply.

Cost of a free school meal

The price of a meal is £2.85 for KS2 and £3.00 for secondary (as of 1 September 2023). The price is reviewed annually.

Universal Credit transitional arrangements

The government expects to complete the Universal Credit rollout in March 2025. The following pupils were protected against losing their free school meals:

  • Any pupil eligible for free school meals before 1 April 2018 will continue to receive them until March 2025. This includes families who are no longer eligible.
  • Any pupil eligible for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will continue to receive them until March 2025.
  • After March 2025, children of any claimants that no longer qualify will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (primary or secondary).

What about younger siblings?

Protection of school meal eligibility applies to individual children, rather than families.

This means that younger children will not qualify for free school meals simply because their older sibling does. This would be unfair on children without older siblings.

The younger child must be eligible when the application is made.


Children joining your school in-year

East Sussex schools

Please tell us when a child transfers from another East Sussex school and the Common Transfer File shows they qualify for free school meals. We will amend their attendance and verify that they are eligible. Do not ask parents to apply.

Out-of-area schools

Give free school meals to children coming from an out-of-area school where the Common Transfer File indicates they qualify.

Complete the Movers in form [77.6 KB] [docx]

This is so we can create a database record and ensure reports are accurate. 

New applications for free school meals

We cannot process new applications by phone.

Online applications

Ask parents to use the Parent Portal to apply for free meals online. This is the same system they use to apply for school places. 

Paper applications

If the parent is unable to apply online, they should complete the free school meal application form [89.5 KB] [docx].

Scan the form and email it to FreeSchoolMeals@eastsussex.gov.uk with the child’s name in the subject field.

Send each application in a separate email so we can track individual cases. We cannot process multiple applications sent in one pdf or in one email.

Younger siblings of children who are entitled

Younger siblings do not automatically qualify for free meals, even if an older sibling does. This is because transitional protections may be in place for the older child. 

All new requests require an application.


We can check your reception intake for pupils who qualify for free school meals (FSM) to ensure you claim their pupil premium.

On the form to accept their child’s school place, parents may provide their:

  • own date of birth
  • National Insurance number

We need these details and their full name to check if a child qualifies.

Enter this data before you run the FSM report in your school management system. We do not process paper applications for this age group.

We will let you know the results. You can claim pupil premium for children who qualify.

How to submit the free school meals report

Schools using SIMS

  • SIMS instructions [615.1 KB] [pdf] on how to import the admissions FSM report
  • Download the free school meals report to run in SIMS

Schools using Arbor

  • Arbor instructions [2.2 MB] [docx] on how to import the admissions FSM report
  • Schools ICT if you need to download the report.  

Email: schoolsict@eastsussex.gov.uk

Phone: 01273 482519

When to submit your free school meals report

Supply your report after 1 September and by the third Friday in September.

This enables us to process it for the autumn census. We will process reports received after this date as soon as possible.

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