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Free school meals

Schools must provide some pupils with a free midday meal. This page explains who qualifies for this.

Can my child get free school meals?

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 eligible for free school meals.

All school children from primary one to three in state schools in Scotland are 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 one of the following benefits:

The following benefits and assistance also apply for qualifying for free school meals.

  • The guarantee part of Pension Credit. 

  • Child Tax Credit, as long as you are not getting Working Tax Credit and have an annual income of less than £16,190 (£16,105 in Scotland)

  • In Scotland, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and have an income of less than £6,900

  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

  • 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 Jobseeker's Allowance in their own right qualify as well.  

What is provided?

Pupils getting free school 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.

How do I apply for free school meals?

You need to get in touch with your local council to apply for free school meals. They may have their own application forms for you to fill in.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you should contact the Education Authority. You can download forms to apply for free school meals on the Education Authority Northern Ireland website.


Updated: September 2019