Free school meals: guidance for schools and local authorities

Guidance for schools and local authorities about providing school meals including information on free school meal eligibility.

Applies to England



Where pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals are receiving remote education, schools should work with their school catering team or food provider to provide good quality lunch parcels.

This will ensure that eligible pupils continue to be supported for the short period they are unable to attend school.

These documents are for:

  • local authorities
  • local-authority-maintained schools
  • academies
  • free schools

The guidance for local authorities and schools explains the eligibility and the protection arrangements under Universal Credit for those already receiving free school meals.

We have permanently extended free school meal eligibility to children in all households with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), subject to maximum income thresholds. The guidance explains who is now eligible. You can provide the application form to families and carers to verify their eligibility.

Published 22 March 2018
Last updated 9 June 2022 + show all updates
  1. Schools can claim additional pupil premium funding in 2022 to 2023 for pupils that have become eligible as a result of the permanent extension of free school meal eligibility. Added a link in 'Providing free school meals to families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)' to the claims form which needs to be submitted by 11:59pm on 8 July 2022.

  2. Added a new guidance document on 'Providing free school meals to families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)' and a sample application form.

  3. Updated to confirm manual checking arrangements for the self-employed.

  4. First published.