Free School Meals

1. What is the eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria for free meals is set by central government. 

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 this is the case they will be entitled to claim free school meals.

2. Transitional arrangements from 1 April 2018

The DfE made amendments to the eligibility criteria on 1 April 2018. As a result, interim protections were given to pupils who might otherwise have lost free school meals following the changes to the eligibility criteria. The transitional protections will be awarded as follows:

• Any pupil who is in receipt of free school meals on 1 April 2018 will continue to receive free school meals whilst Universal Credit is rolled out. This applies even if their parent no longer meets the eligibility criteria.

• Any pupil who gains eligibility for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will continue to receive free school meals during the Universal Credit rollout period. This applies even if their parent no longer meets the eligibility criteria at a subsequent point during the rollout period.

Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, children of existing claimants that no longer meet the eligibility criteria at that point (because they are earning above the threshold or are no longer a recipient of Universal Credit) will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (i.e. primary or secondary). The Universal Credit rollout is currently expected to complete in March 2023.

What about younger siblings?

Transitional protections are put in place on an individual child basis, not on a family basis. This means that younger children will not become entitled to free school meals simply because their older sibling is in receipt of transitional protections. Extending transitional protections to families would lead to unfairness in the system for those children without older siblings.

The younger child must meet the eligibility criteria at the time the application for free school meals is made in order to be entitled to free school meals.

3. Verifying entitlement

Children joining your school in year

When a child joins you from another East Sussex school and the CTF indicates they are entitled to FSM, you should contact us so we can amend their attendance and verify FSM eligibility. Parents should not need to apply.

Children coming from an out of area school where the CTF indicates they are entitled to FSM should be given free meals. However, we need their parent’s details to set up a database record. In these circumstances, please email us with the parent’s full name and address for us to create a record and ensure entitlement reports are accurate. 

New applications
We cannot process new applications over the phone. Parents should be encouraged to apply for free meals online using the same system as for applying for school places. 

Those unable to apply online should complete the free school meal application form. This will need to be scanned and sent by email with the child’s name in the subject field to the free school meals team individually. Multiple applications sent in one document will be returned unprocessed.

What about younger siblings of children who are entitled?
You cannot assume younger siblings automatically qualify for free meals even if an older sibling is showing as entitled. This is because the older child may be transitionally protected. An application will have to be submitted for checking.

4. Pupil premium claims for the Reception intake

In order for schools to claim the maximum amount of Pupil Premium, we have developed a report to run in SIMS for schools that will pull out all the necessary information for us to verify entitlement to free school meals. Before you run the report, you will need to enter the parents date of birth and National Insurance number.  We can only check eligibility where full details have been provided.

Please read the instructions for the Admissions FSM report.

Download the report to run in SIMS

To guarantee a response for the autumn census, you must supply your report no earlier than 1st September and no later than the 3rd Friday in September. Reports submitted after this date will be processed as soon as possible but this may not be in time for the autumn Census.

5. Cost of a free school meal

The price of a meal is £2.15 for primary and £2.27 for secondary (as at 1 September 2021). 

The price is reviewed annually (usually in August)