Free school meals

Before you apply for free school meals you must read all the information on this page.

Am I entitled to free school meals for my child?

Your child will be eligible for free school meals if you are receiving one of the following benefits or support:

  • Universal Credit - Your annual net earned income must be no more that £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to 3 of your most recent assessment periods.
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit but not Working Tax Credit and your annual income is below £16,190 (as worked out by HM Revenue & Customs)
  • Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • parents receiving Working Tax Credit for four weeks after their employment finishes are entitled to free school meals during that period.  This also applies to parents who start working less than 16 hours per week

Transitional Protection was introduced from 1 April 2018 so that;

  • All existing free school meals claimants will continue to receive free school meals whilst Universal Credit is rolled out. This applies to all children whether eligible through legacy benefits or Universal Credit, and will apply regardless of any changes in circumstances.
  • In addition, any child gaining eligibility for free school meals will be protected against losing free school meals during the Universal Credit roll out period.
  • Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, any existing claimants that no longer meet the above eligibility criteria at that point will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (i.e. primary or secondary)

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 protection.  The younger child must meet the eligibility criteria at the time the application is made to become eligible for free school meals.

The Universal Credit roll out is currently expected to complete in September 2024.

You are NOT entitled to free school meals if:

  • you receive Working Tax Credit except where the 'four week run-on' applies as described above

Children attending schools in another authority: for example, attend school in Rotherham, but you live in Doncaster then you. should apply to Rotherham.

Free School Meals for Nursery Education

Children are eligible for free school meals  who are registered pupils receiving nursery education and are either;

  • receiving full-time education, or
  • attending school for a period which spans the lunch break

Universal infant free school meals

All children in reception, year 1 or year 2 are automatically entitled to receive a free school meal without you submitting an online application. This is regardless of your income and circumstances and includes Local Authority maintained schools, academies and free schools.

However, if you are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits listed above you should still complete an online application as the school is entitled to receive the Pupil Premium for your child.  If you do not submit an online form the school cannot apply for the Pupil Premium.

The Pupil Premium is a grant provided by the government for every child that has the right to a free school meal based on the qualifying benefits above and is; 

  • £1,320 per school year, for each eligible pupil from Reception to Year 6, or
  • £935 per school year for each eligible pupil from Years 7 to Year 11

The money is used to support individual pupils and the whole school community.

If you receive one of the qualifying benefits but you don’t want your child to receive a free school meal, we would ask you to still apply so that your child’s school receives as much funding as possible.

For further information please see the document below:

Universal Infant Free School Meals
Download (185KB)

Free School Meals for students at college or in further education

Students aged between 16 and 18 years old may be eligible for free lunchtime meals if their parents’ or carers’ meet the eligibility criteria above

Eligible colleges and further education providers

To be eligible for a free meal the students must be enrolled in further education funded via the Education Funding Agency (EFA) at

  • General further education (FE) 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
  • 16 to 19 only maintained schools

Students at college or further education are eligible if they;

  • are aged between 16 and 18 on 31 August, are eligible for a free meal in the academic year from September
  • have their 19th birthday during their study programme. They remain eligible for a free meal until the end of the academic year in which that birthday occurs or to the end of their study programme, whichever is sooner
  • are aged between 19 and 25 and are subject to a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) or Education Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan)

Students at college or further education are not eligible if they;

  • are aged 19 or over at the start of their study programme, unless they have an LDA or EHC plan
  • Apprentices, including those with an LDA or EHC plan

Applying for free school meals

Even if your child does not want free school meals, you should still make a request.  This is because you may be entitled to other benefits for your child, for example, free school milk for children under seven, or help towards board and lodging charges for school trips.

Online application

If you meet the criteria, an online request, normally by the parent or guardian of the child, has to be made before the council can provide free school meals. 

Please note: you will have to pay for any school meals your child has before we receive your application. But see the Universal infant free school meals section below.

You can apply for free school meals up to a maximum of two months before your child starts school.

What happens when we receive your application

Once you have applied for free school meals,

  • we aim to deal with your request within 3 working days
  • when you apply online, your entitlement to free school meals will be checked automatically as part of the online process
  • in most cases this is all we need but, if we are unable to confirm your entitlement using this service, we will contact you for more information
  • once we have dealt with your application we will send you a letter confirming your entitlement to free school meals
  • we will also send an email to your child's school the morning after we process your application to let them know that your child can start having free school meals

Changes to your application

What happens if my circumstances change?

If your child becomes eligible for Free School Meals, they will continue to be eligible until the end of Universal Credit roll out (currently September 2024).

This is regardless of any changes in your circumstances and means that you do not need to tell us if your circumstances change.

You only need to tell us if you want to withdraw your application for Free School Meals.

You can contact us;

  • by emailing
  • by phoning 01302 735336, option 1
  • by visiting the Civic Office, Waterdale, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm, excluding bank holidays.


Normally, the earliest date your free school meals can start is the date we receive your request.  You can ask the school for a refund for any school meals you have paid for between the date of your request and the date your child starts receiving free school meals.

Useful links

School uniform


Last updated: 24 September 2020 16:42:02