Free School Meals and Pupil Premium

(asked on 9th July 2020) - View Source

Question to the Department for Education:

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of (a) the number of eligible pupils who did not register for free schools meals and (b) the amount of pupil premium funding unclaimed by schools for those pupils in each financial year since the pupil premium was introduced.


Answered by
Vicky Ford Portrait
Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
This question was answered on 17th July 2020

There are currently over 1.4 million pupils eligible for and claiming a nutritious free school meal, saving families around £400 per year.

We do not routinely collect information on the proportion of pupils that would be entitled to a free school meal but do not make a claim.

We want to make sure as many eligible pupils as possible are claiming their free school meals and make it as simple as possible for schools and local authorities to determine eligibility. To support this, we:

  • provide an Eligibility Checking System (ECS) to make the checking process as quick and straightforward as possible for schools and local authorities;
  • have developed a model registration form to help schools encourage parents to sign up for free school meals; and
  • provide guidance to Jobcentre Plus advisers so that they can make Universal Credit recipients aware that they may also be entitled to wider benefits, including free school meals.

With regard to pupil premium funding, it is not ‘claimed’ but is allocated to schools based on the numbers of pupils that are, or have been at any point over the last six years, recorded in the annual census as eligible for free schools meals.

Counting the number of pupils who have claimed free school meals during the past six years has, since 2012-13, acted as a proxy for the level of economic disadvantage experienced by school populations. The pupil premium is not a personal budget for pupils and legally cannot be allocated where a claim for a free school meal has not been made. The pupil premium budget for each year is set based on a forecast of the number of pupils who will be recorded as eligible in the annual census, according to this measure. As pupils who do not claim a free school meal cannot be identified as eligible to attract pupil premium to their school, there is no ‘unclaimed’ (unallocated) pupil premium funding.

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