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Free school meals

Check if your child can get free school meals and apply to us.


Free school meals

A lot of people don't apply for free school meals. That's why we are continuing with our campaign to encourage all families to register regardless of if they believe they may be eligible.

You don’t need to worry about other children knowing your child gets free school meals. They are offered the same food and sit in the same area. Only the school, and in secondary schools the catering staff, will know. They don't have to have them every day, but it will save you money and time in making a packed lunch!

You could save £400 a year for each child and your children could benefit from a good hot meal at lunchtime. The school will benefit too as they’ll get the pupil premium of £1,000 a year from the government for each child eligible for free school meals.

Free school meal entitlement

All children at Derbyshire schools, aged 5 to 18, can get free school meals if they qualify. If your child is aged 3 to 5 and at one of our nursery schools they are only able to have a free school meal if they stay for the whole day at school.

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you (or the young person themselves, where appropriate) get any of the following:

  • Universal Credit, provided they have an annual net earned income not exceeding £7,400 (£616.67 per month)
  • 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 State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit (WTC) and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190) as assessed by HRMC
  • Working Tax Credit run-on (paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Universal Credit has begun to be rolled out in Derbyshire and will affect all areas of Derbyshire by the end of 2018.

Most families will not be affected by the new criteria. Families who are currently claiming free school meals, but fail to meet the new criteria, will continue to receive free school meals until the end of the Universal Credit rollout period, even if they continue to appear as no longer eligible on future reports. The rollout period is currently scheduled to end in March 2022.

Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, pupils will keep their free school meal entitlement until the end of their current phase of education, that is, primary or secondary.

Read more about free school meals guidance for schools and local authorities.

Young people age 16 to 18 who receive the benefits or Tax Credits in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals.

Even if you meet any or all of the criteria, families will not be eligible if they are claiming Working Tax Credit.

Applying for free school meals

You can sign up for free school meals at any time of year. 

You or your partner can claim for your children, as long as you live at the same address.

You do not have to fill in a separate form for each child, even if they go to different schools. Just name the child and which school they go to.

If another of your children starts school and one of your children already has free school meals, we can add them to the application you already have. Just call the free school meals team tel: 01629 536481.

Apply for free school meals

After you've applied

After you've applied for free school meals we'll email you to let you know if your application has been processed and the outcome of the eligibility check.

If your child qualifies for free school meals

For primary school children we'll send you a letter within a week of you filling out the online application to let you know. Your child or children can then get their free school lunch straight away. If you are unsure of what your child needs to do at lunchtime please ask your school office and they will be able to help.

For secondary school children we'll notify you by email or letter within a week of you filling out the online application to let you know. Your child or children can then get their free school lunch straight away. The system for paying for school meals varies at each secondary school. Some have a cashless system, and if they do, your child will be provided with an account which will be credited daily with a specific amount of money which will be sufficient to buy a main course, pudding and drink. If you are unsure of what your child needs to do at lunchtime please ask your school office and they will be able to help.

Your application will last throughout the entire school life of your children.

If your circumstances change or you stop getting some benefits, you must contact us, tel: 01629 536481.

Please let us know about any changes since you applied, like a change of address or school.

If your child does not qualify

If your child does not qualify for free school meals we'll notify you by email or letter within 2 weeks of you filling out the online application.

If you believe that you should receive free school meals the notification will explain how you can appeal. This will normally mean you will have to send us supporting documents like a letter from the benefits office confirming your benefits or a Child Tax Credit award notice. If you do this we will look at your application again.