If your child is entitled to free school meals it could save your family almost £400 per child per year. Fruit

Free school meals guarantee that your child will get a hot, nutritious meal at lunch time to keep them going until home time; and may also mean that you can get help to pay for school activities, such as music lessons and school trips. 

We want all parents to register their details so that we can maximise savings for families and funding for schools. Claiming free school meals not only saves you money but could raise an extra £2,000 for your child’s school and this could fund valuable support like extra tuition, additional teaching staff or after school activities. This additional money is available for every child who meets the free school meals criteria below. It is therefore important to register your details, even if your child is in reception, year 1 or year 2 and gets a free meal under the Universal Infant Free School Meal programme, or you want to give your child a packed lunch.

More information about school lunch menus and food standards can be found here.

Is my child eligible for free school meals?

If your child is in school on a full-time basis (including those in sixth-form or children at nursery for a full day) they may be entitled to free school meals. In order to be eligible, you need to receive one of the following qualifying benefits:

  • Universal Credit (If you are working, there is an earning threshold of £7,400 per year. If your earnings fluctuate, we recommend you apply as you may be entitled during a period when your earnings are lower)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guarantee element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit

In addition, the following pupils will be protected against losing their free school meals as follows

  • From 1 April 2018, all existing free school meals claimants will continue to receive free school meals whilst Universal Credit is rolled out. This will apply even if the parent's earnings rise above the new threshold during that time.
  • In addition, any child gaining eligibility for free school meals after 1 April 2018 will be protected against losing free school meals during the Universal Credit rollout period.
  • Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, any existing claimants that no longer meet the eligibility criteria at that point (because they are earning above the threshold or are no longer a recipient of Universal Credit) will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education (i.e. primary or secondary).

The Universal Credit rollout is currently expected to complete in March 2023.

The table below indicates when transitional protection will end for

School year 2017-18 Transitional protection ends
Nursery End of Primary (year 6)
Reception End of Primary (year 6)
Year 1 End of Primary (year 6)
Year 2 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 3 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 4 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 5 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 6 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 7 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 8 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 9 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 10 End of Secondary (year 11)
Year 11 End of Secondary (year 11)

Pupils who are attending a middle school in 2023 will be protected until the end of high school (year 11). Pupils attending a first school in 2023 will be protected until at least the end of first school (Year 4). 

If you are a young person who receives one of the above benefits in your own right, you are also entitled to receive free school meals.

Please note that children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are now automatically entitled to a free meal called a Universal Infant Free School Meal. You will still need to complete a free school meal plus application so that your child’s school can access additional funding for your child.

How do I apply for free school meals?

It's easy.  Apply online for free school meals

  • The person receiving the benefit should complete the application.
  • Enter your details carefully as any mis-spellings will mean we cannot check your details.
  • You should apply to the local authority where your children go to school.
  • If you have a child starting school for the first time and you already receive free school meals for other children, you will need to complete a new application for the additional child.
  • You do not need to re-apply annually if your child already receives free school meals.  Your claim will continue until your child leaves school unless you have a change in circumstances.

Data Privacy

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) puts in place certain safeguards regarding the use of personal data by organisations, including the Department for Education (DfE), local authorities and schools. The Act gives rights to those about whom data is held, such as pupils, their parents and teachers (known as data subjects). This includes:

  • the right to know the types of data being held; 
  • why it is being held; and 
  • to whom it may be communicated.

You also have the right to request your data is corrected, updated or erased. In these circumstances, this will lead to a new assessment of your child’s eligibility which may change the outcome of the decision.

The information which you provide for free school meals+ will be stored on our secure recording system and will be used to confirm eligibility for Pupil Premium, Early Years Pupil Premium and the Two-Year-Old Offer. It may also be used if you make an application for Free School Travel in the future.

We will not share your personal details with anyone and will only share the result of your check with your child’s school, Early Years provider/s (if applicable) and the Department for Education.

Information will be stored and used in line with our retention policy or until you ask for this to be changed. Should you have any concerns in relation to how your information or the information relating to your child/ren is being or will be used, or shared, please contact the Access, Admissions and Attendance Service using the contact dtails below.

What happens next?

We will check your eligibility using an online checking system provided by the Department for Education. This system links with your benefit provider and confirms whether or not you are eligible for free school meals. It does not provide us with any other information. We will also continue to check your data and write when you become eligible unless you ask us to stop. This is to prevent you from having to reapply and to make sure if you become eligible this is processed as soon as possible.

Applications are processed within 5 to 10 working days, or sooner in quieter periods. We will write to tell you the outcome of your application and what date your child's free school meals will start. We will also let the school know. If you make an application for child who is already entitled to free schools we may choose not to process your application. In these cases, we will contact you to let you know.  

Sometimes we may need to contact you to provide more information before we can make a decision on whether or not your child is eligible.  In these circumstances we will ask you to provide additional proof of benefit because we have been unable to confirm through the online check that you receive one of the qualifying benefits.  In most cases, errors are due to the wrong details being supplied, such as mis-spellings of National Insurance numbers or the wrong date of birth. Please enter these details carefully.

Your child's entitlement will then automatically continue until they turn 19 or leave a Newcastle school, or until your financial circumstances change. If your child moves schools within the city, their eligibility will transfer with them to their new school.

Audits and changes of circumstances

You must let us know about change of circumstance, including name and address changes. You can do this by contacting us at the email or postal address below.  If your benefits stop your child will continue to receive Free School Meals until at least March 2023. Please see the table above which explains more about Free School Protection.

We check all free school meals recipients on a regular basis.This means that if you apply and are not eligible we will contact you if you do become eligible later. You do not need to reapply, you only need to contact us if you detail (name or address) change so we can ensure we are assessing the correct information.  

Frequently asked questions about free school meals

Why do you ask for my relationship to the child?

If the relationship of the applicant to the child is anything other than mother or father we will ask for evidence to show that the child lives in the household and the applicant receives benefits on behalf of them. If further evidence is required we will contact you directly.

If I am asked to provide proof of benefit, what should I supply?

  • If you receive Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and Income-related Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) please provide a copy of a recent Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Jobcentre letter granting the benefit. This must be dated within three months of the application.
  • If you receive Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit - please supply a copy of your most recent HM Revenue and Customs Tax Credit award notice (TC602).
  • If you receive Universal Credit please supply a copy or a screen shot of your most recent award letter or statement. In some cases, we may need to see three-months’ worth of statement to prove eligibility.    

We will also accept photocopies signed and stamped as seen by a member of school staff and returned to us via the schools' post system.

What if I don't have any of these forms of proof?

Without proof that you are entitled to one of the qualifying benefits, we will not be able to process your application. If you do not have the necessary proof of benefit, please contact the relevant office to request it.

How will you use the personal information I give you?

Any personal information you supply will be processed only in accordance with the data privacy stamen above.

Universal Infant Free School Meals

Good food and good food culture has been shown to lead not only to healthier, happier and more fulfilled children, but to improved educational attainment. Evidence from areas that provide universal free school meals is that children eat more healthily and perform better academically. Schools have also reported improved behaviour and atmosphere as a result of all pupils eating together every day.

The government has therefore decided that all infant pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 should be offered a universal infant free school meal.

We believe that the school lunchtime is a great opportunity for all children to sit down together and enjoy their healthy and tasty meal, while developing their social skills. We therefore hope that all parents will take up the free offer.  You will need to register with your child's school in order for your child to get the free meal.

We ask that all parents of pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 register their details with us by completing some free school meals+ application.

Help and support

  • Phone us on 0191 278 7878 if you have any questions. Ask for "Free school meals"
  • Email: admissions.information@newcastle.gov.uk 
  • Write to us at: Newcastle City Council, Admissions and Information Service, 3rd Floor, Civic Centre, Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH

Other information



Page last updated: 
19 September 2018
Was this page useful?