Free school meals

Reception, Year 1 and 2

All pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 in state funded schools in England are eligible for free school meals. This includes academies, free schools and pupil referral units as well as maintained schools.

Other year groups

Children in key stages 3 and 4 in state funded schools may be eligible for Free School Meals if their parents or carers are in receipt of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit with an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guarantee element of Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit run-on (paid for the four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Child Tax Credit (with no Working Tax Credit) with an annual income of no more than £16,190

Children who receive Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance in their own right are also entitled to receive Free School Meals. 

Children who have not attained compulsory school age will need to satisfy the additional requirement of receiving education both before and after the lunch period to qualify for Free School Meals.

Registering for Free School Meals could also raise an extra funding for your child’s school (£1,320 for a primary school or £900 for a secondary school), to fund valuable support like extra tuition, additional teaching staff or after school activities. This additional money is available from central government for every child whose parent is receiving one of the benefits listed above.

Apply for a free school meal

Applications for free school meals are processed by each individual school, apply to your school for free school meals.

You'll be asked to provide proof of your eligibility and the school cannot provide free school meals without first seeing the appropriate documentation.

Most secondary schools operate a cafeteria service where individual items can be bought separately, although a set price meal is also available. A number of schools now operate a cashless smartcard payment system for buying school meals. There are also facilities available in all schools for pupils who prefer to bring their own food.

Free school meals for primary school children

The Mayor of London has extended the policy ensuring all KS2 school children who attend state schools in London will receive free school meals for the academic year  2024/ 2025. This is on top of the existing Universal Free School Meals for Infant children

The funding the Mayor is providing for KS2 pupils has helped up to 287,000 primary school children across London access free school meals and could save families up to £1,000 over two years per child. 

Read about free school meals for London's primary school pupils.