Free school meals for all infants FAQs

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Who gets a free school meal under this scheme?

All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 at state-funded schools in England. That includes infant pupils in maintained infant and primary schools, free schools, academies, schools for pupils with special educational needs and pupil referral units. Pupils at maintained nursery schools, direct grant nursery schools, independent schools and general hospital schools aren’t included. Free school meals are still available to older pupils whose parents receive certain benefits as normal – read more.

Why were free school meals for all infants introduced?

The government’s stated aim is to improve academic attainment and save families money. Universal free school meals for all primary pupils were among the key recommendations of the School Food Plan, which presented evidence that universal free school meals can help improve health, attainment and social cohesion, and help families with the cost of living.

How is the Pupil Premium calculated now that all infants get a free meal?

Pupil Premium allocations are still being calculated using the January school census data, so families of disadvantaged infant pupils should still be encouraged to register for free school meals, even though they’ll get them automatically – to make sure schools are still getting their full Pupil Premium funding.

The Department for Education says its exploring ideas about the best way to identify disadvantaged pupils automatically in the long term.

Do we have to do this?

Yes – this is a legal requirement.

Does the meal have to be hot?

Schools are legally required to provide a lunchtime meal for infants which meet the school food standards – and this is far more difficult to do if you only provide cold food. Talk to our support service to go through your options if you’re struggling to offer a hot meal.

How can we manage these bigger numbers?

There are all sorts of options to consider, from changing the layout of your space to staggering lunch sittings and reducing the number of menu options you offer children. Contact us to talk through your school’s circumstances – whatever your issue, we can help.

Can children still bring in a packed lunch?

That’s up to every individual school to decide. We’d recommend having a healthy packed lunch policy for any children who are still bringing their own food – download an example, or contact us to try our online training course on ways to introduce a lunchbox policy.

We’re still struggling to deliver this because of our kitchen facilities. What can we do?
Get in touch with us to talk through your options.

How do we cater for children with allergies or special diets?

School lunch menus are designed for the majority of your school population, so children with special dietary needs may need to be catered for individually. It’s up to you to decide if this is feasible, but we recommend making every effort to cater for all pupils. Put a policy in place so everyone in school knows how a request for a special diet is to be handled, and write these requirements into any contract you have with caterers. We can help with any questions – get in touch.

Do we have to provide free meals for all infants when they’re on a school trip?

Yes – you have to provide a meal for all infants on every day that school is in session, regardless of where pupils are. So it’s up to you to make suitable arrangements to provide a meal during school trips.