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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

 

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Who does it help?

For your child to qualify for free school meals, you must get:

However, 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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Changes from September 2014

All infant school pupils (every child in reception, year 1 and year 2) in state funded schools in England will be eligible for a free school meal from September 2014.

Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges will also be eligible for free school meals from September 2014.

Reviewed: 13 March 2014

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