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Free school meals

Key information

Schools must provide a free midday meal to pupils if they (or their parents) get certain benefits.

Applies to: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Administered by: Your local council



You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

Who does it help?

All infant school pupils (every child in reception, year 1 and year 2) in state funded schools in England are eligible for a free school meal. Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges are also be eligible for free school meals.

From January 2015 all school children from primary one to three in state schools in Scotland are now entitled to a free school meal as well.

If you are in Northern Ireland or Wales (or in England or Scotland and your child is not covered by the rules above) for your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get:

In England and Wales, if you are getting Working Tax Credit for a run on period of four weeks because you have stopped work or reduced your hours to less than 16 hours a week, or in some cases, less than 24 or 30 hours a week, you may still be able to get free school meals for your children.

Children who get Income Support or income-based Job Seeker's Allowance in their own right qualify as well.  

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What help is provided?

Pupils getting free meals may not always get the same meals as those paying in full.

In a cafeteria-system, your child will probably get vouchers to pay for their lunch. If you get vouchers, their value depends on your local council.

If your child gets free school meals, they might also get free milk at school.

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How do I apply?

You need to get in touch with your local council (link opens in a new window) to apply for free school meals. They may have their own application forms for you to fill in.

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Updated: 5 January 2015

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