Free school meals

Free school meal eligibility and how to apply.

1 Is my child eligible?

Free school meals in all West Sussex maintained and free schools and academies are available to pupils in receipt of, or whose parents are in receipt of, one or more of the following benefits:

A number of pupils will also be protected against losing their current free school meals. You can find more information on GOV.UK.

If you are not eligible for benefits-related, free school meals, but your child is currently in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2, they will automatically be entitled to Universal Infant Free School Meals and you need not apply. Contact your school for details.

If you are eligible for benefits-related free school meals in accordance with the above criteria, and your child is also receiving Universal Infant Free School Meals, it is important that you continue to register. This will enable your child's school to claim valuable 'pupil premium' funding. This is additional grant the school can invest in, providing extra support for your child in school.

See GOV.UK for eligibility guidelines for meals for students aged over 16, and speak to their establishment if you are interested in finding out more.

2 How to apply

If you receive any of the benefits specified on Is my child eligible?, you can apply online.

Apply online for free school meals (external link)

Once your application has been successfully processed we will send you a confirmation.

3 Free school meals to families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)

The DfE have permanently extended free school meal eligibility to children in all households with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), subject to maximum income thresholds. Schools and local authorities are not able to use the eligibility checking system (ECS) to confirm eligibility for these families as the family will not be in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits.

This means that you cannot process the claim using our online FSM application process.

Please complete the application form on GOV.UK below and return it to your child’s school.

Application form for free school meals from families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) (GOV.UK) (external link)

The eligible groups include, but may not be limited to children of:

  • Zambrano carers
  • families who have no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction
  • a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Chen carers
  • families holding a BN(O) passport
  • spousal visa holders
  • work visa holders
  • student visa holders
  • those with no immigration status.

Find examples of the documents that can be provided as evidence of the parent’s status.

The maximum income threshold is dependent upon where the family lives and the number of children that the family has.

Under the permanent extension of free school meal eligibility to all NRPF groups, the annual household income thresholds for those families able to work are:

  • £22,700 for families outside of London with one child
  • £26,300 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £31,200 for families within London with one child
  • £34,800 for families within London with two or more children.

The DfE have given examples of the documents the parents could provide to schools to prove their annual income.

School colleagues should record eligible free school meals pupils who qualify through the NRPF criteria in the termly school census, in the same way as all other free school meals pupils. However, these pupils are not covered by FSM Transitional Protection, and will only remain eligible for free school meals as long as the parents fulfil the eligibility criteria above.

All evidence of the application, including the self-declaration and any supporting documentation, should be retained securely by schools for audit purposes.

The DfE have produced an application form that can be provided to parents when they apply, please see the link above.

As a parent’s situation may change over the course of the year, schools are advised to re-check parent’s eligibility at least once a term.

4 If your circumstances change

If your circumstances have changed contact us as you may need to make a new application. For example, if your child changes school to a school that is not within West Sussex, you should contact the new local authority and inform West Sussex.

Note: you do not need to re-apply when your child is moving from primary to secondary school or changing schools if their new school is within West Sussex.

5 Contact details

6 Pupil premium grant

If you receive any of these benefits and you apply for free school meals, your child's school will receive a pupil premium grant to support your child's education.

The grant is currently:

  • £1,455 per eligible primary pupil
  • £1,035 per eligible secondary pupil.

It is paid for up to six years.

7 Holiday Activities and Food programme

Find information about a Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays for school children aged 4 to 16 who receive benefits-related free school meals.

Holiday Activities and Food programme
Last updated:
27 February 2024
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