Apply for free school meals

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If you have applied online for a school admission place for this September or 2 year old funding, please use the same login details.

Apply for free school meals

Why should I apply?

For every child that is entitled to free school meals the school receives extra funding to enhance provision and improve progress and outcomes for children. So please apply even if you do not wish to take up your free school meal.

What are the qualifying criteria for Free School Meals?  

Your child might be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit -  your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.

Infant free school meals in England

Your child will be able to get free school meals if they’re in:

  • reception class
  • year 1
  • year 2

We still ask that you apply for this via the normal free school meals applications so as to prevent your child's school missing out on additional funding.

How long will it take to get a response?

You will receive an instant response as to whether you are entitled to free school meals once you have submitted your claim. All you need is your National Insurance Number and a current email address.

When your application is received, your eligibility will be checked with the Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs. If unsuccessful, children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will still receive universal infant free school meals.

Transferring to secondary school

If your child is currently receiving free school meals at their primary school and transferring to secondary school in September, you do not need to reapply. Entitlement will transfer automatically to their new school unless your financial circumstances change; if so you will be notified if they are no longer entitled.

Free school meals for over 16s

All 16-18 year-old learners who are, or whose parents are, in receipt of eligible benefits and enrolled in further education provision funded via the Education Funding Agency can apply for free school meals.

Learners who are aged 19-25 years old who have a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) or an Education Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) are also entitled to free meals under this scheme.

All eligible 16-18 year-old learners who attend a sixth form at a school/academy can apply using the free school meals on the above link. For all 16-18 learners who attend other colleges/institutions please contact them for more information on how to apply.

For more information, including the eligibility criteria,please see our

1. Who can apply?

In order to qualify for Free School Meals for your children you must be in receipt of one of the
following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an
    annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax
    Credit
  • Universal Credit - your household income must be less than £7,400 a year / £616 per month(after tax and not including any benefits you get)

Young people who receive any of the above benefits in their own right (i.e. they get benefits
payments directly, instead of through a parent or guardian) are also entitled to receive Free School
Meals at sixth form.

You can claim for children attending a state school who are of statutory school age (reception age to
16) and sixth form pupils in schools. If the pupil attends a college, you will need to contact the
college direct.

The Government does not allow us to recognise any other benefit other than those mentioned.

2. My child is eligible for Free School Meals but I don’t want to take up the offer – why am I being encouraged to apply?

For every child that is entitled to Free School Meals the school receives extra funding to enhance
provision and improve progress and outcomes for children. This is called the Pupil Premium Grant, the school can use this in any way they choose but many use it to provide free milk, reduced cost trips or help with uniforms etc.

Your child can still bring a packed lunch if they prefer but by applying through the Free School Meal Portal you ensure their school receives this grant.

3. What are Universal Infant Free School Meals?

From September 2014 all infant school children were eligible to have a school meal for free. You still
need to apply through the Free School Meal Portal to ensure your child’s school receives any
additional funding they may be entitled to.

4. Can over 16s qualify?

To be eligible for a free meal, students must be enrolled in further education provision funded via
the Education Funding Agency at:

  • General further education colleges, including specialist colleges sixth form colleges
  • Commercial and charitable providers
  • Higher education institutions (HEIs) with 16 to 19 funding from the EFA
  • Independent specialist providers (ISPs)
  • Local authorities (LAs) and FE institutions directly funded for 16 to 19s
  • Skills Funding Agency (SFA) only traineeship 16 to 18 providers
  • European Social Fund (ESF) only institutions
  • 16 to 19 academies and free schools

5. What is the Free School Meal Portal?

As a parent and/or carer you can apply for Free School Meals online along with your Admissions and
Transport applications. The Free School Meals Portal also includes an online eligibility checking
service which provides instant feedback – so we can easily confirm if you are entitled.

6. Do you need to have a computer to do this?

No – applications can also be made using your Smartphone or tablet. It’s also possible to use
computers at Gloucestershire libraries

7. What do you need in order to apply?

You will need to have an email address and your National Insurance or National Asylum Support
Service (NASS) number to hand

8. Can I use my login and password which I had when I applied for a school place?

Yes, it will be the same login and password as when you applied through the portal for School
Admissions or if you have recently made an application through the Year 2 Funding portal.

9. Is this the only method of applying?

No, the paper forms are still available but it will be far more efficient and quicker to apply using the
portal. The portal will advise you of your entitlement shortly after you have fully submitted your
application, unlike the current five day processing time with paper forms. The school will also be informed immediately that there is a change to your entitlements.

10. Do all parents need to apply?

If your child(ren) is currently receiving Free School Meals, it is not necessary to apply again. This new
system for applying is for new claimants.

11. Do parents from all Gloucestershire schools apply through the Gloucestershire County Council portal?

A few of the Gloucestershire schools have opted to administer their Free School Meal applications
rather than apply through Gloucestershire County Council. If your child attends one of the schools
below, please contact the school directly to submit an application:

  • Bourton on the Water primary school
  • Five Acres High School
  • Gloucester Academy School
  • Holmleigh Park High School
  • Henley Bank High School

12. Will my claim be back-dated?

No. In accordance with the Department for Educations policy entitlement to free meals will start
from the date entitlement is confirmed. This is why it is important to apply as soon as you can

13. What can I expect my child to receive as a meal?

A school meal can be either hot or cold. It depends on what facilities the school has. Your child will
receive a main course and a dessert. Drinking water should be provided by all schools, and you will
need to pay for any alternative drinks.

14. How do I apply for free milk?

If your child’s primary school provides milk at break-time, this will be free for the time your child is
entitled to Free School Meals. Please contact your child’s school to see if free milk is available and
how to apply for it. This is not available in secondary schools.

15. How will the school know my child does not have to pay for school meals?

The schools have a live link to the free school meals entitlement for their own school, they will receive an automatic email to alert them to the fact that there has been changes to your child’s entitlement.
Each school makes its own arrangements for notifying the dinner service staff which children are
eligible to receive a free school meal. You can use your letter of entitlement as confirmation.

16. What if my benefits cease?

You will need to contact the Free School Meals Team immediately. They can check if your child is on
the protected period for Free school meals, in which case your child can continue to receive free
school meals until the protected period, the staff at freeschoolmeals@gloucestershire.gov.uk will be able to give you this date.

17. What if I change school?

If your child transfers school and was receiving Free School Meals at their previous school you do not
need to reapply as entitlement will transfer automatically to their new school if it is still a state
school in Gloucestershire. If your child is moving into Gloucestershire from out of county you must
inform the Gloucestershire County Council of your previous eligibility to free school meals and which
local authority/school you have come from.

18. What does “Transitional Protection” mean?

If your child is claiming free school meals based on benefits as of the 01/04/2018 their entitlement
will be protected until the 31/03/2022 and after that date to the end of your child’s educational
phase i.e. primary, secondary.

Transitional protection is exclusive to the child receiving meals as of the 01/04/2018. Transitional
protection will also be awarded to anyone who meets the free school meals criteria and applies
between the 01/04/2018 and the 31/03/2022.

19. My eldest child’s free school meals are protected until 2022 will this protection cover future applications for siblings?

Protection is exclusive to the child that is protected and will not automatically cover the whole
family. In order for a sibling to be protected the family will have to meet the free school meals
criteria. If you do not meet the free school meals criteria the protected child will remain entitled
until the 31/03/2022 but any subsequent applications for siblings will not be approved or protected.

20. If I have a query, who can I contact?

General advice and support can be given by the Free School Meals Team by emailing
freeschoolmeals@gloucestershire.gov.uk.

Free School Meals Frequently Asked Questions (printable)


If you need to contact us please email freeschoolmeals@gloucestershire.gov.uk.

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