Free school meals

Find out if your child qualifies for free school meals.
Children eating free school meals at lunchtime

Free school meals in primary schools

We offer every child in a Newham primary school (including infants and juniors) a free school lunch everyday. Newham is one of only three local authorities in the country to provide a universally free school meal scheme to junior schools, and currently over 15,500 pupils (2017/18) are benefiting from a free school meal who would not have otherwise qualified for a subsided or free meal. This offer is delivered and funded by the Mayor of Newham as part of the May​or's Promise.

Extra funding for your child's school

Even though primary schools offer a free school lunch every day, if you apply for a free school meal - and we agree your application - you can raise £1,300 for your child’s school. This extra money comes from the Government, and in the next school year the amount goes up to £1,320 per child.

Apply for free school meals

Free school meals in secondary schools


Your child may receive free school meals if you get any of the following benefits:
  • 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 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit - if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.

Your child might also get free school meals if you get any of these benefits and your child is both:

  • ​younger than the compulsory age for starting school
  • in full-time education

If your child is eligible for free school meals they'll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they're in on 31 March 2022.

Apply for free school meals

Make sure you have your National Insurance number to hand before you fill in the form.
Apply for free school meals
We use your National Insurance number to find out from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) whether or not you qualify for free school meals.
Note, the DWP will only tell us if you qualify. They will not give us any information about the benefits you receive.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Who should apply for free school meals?

In Newham we request all families with children of school age who are attending a state funded school to apply for free school meals irrespective of their employment or immigration status. Only those in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits will be entitled but we use the application every week to recheck all the claims in our database. This means we maximise the number of children in receipt of free school meals without families having to remember to reapply or notify us when their circumstances change.   

Why do families with children in primary school need to apply for free school meals, when the children eat for free?

Although primary children eat for free knowing their official free school entitlement information is very important to schools. Children whose families are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits the school will receive additional funding known as Pupil Premium and other funding is linked to free school meals data if they have applied. 

How often do families need to reapply for free school meals?

Families in Newham only need to submit one free school meal application for the duration of their child’s education in the borough. Pupil Services use this form to recheck the entitlement status every week so we don’t need anyone to complete more than one form.

Do families need to reapply if their child changes school?

No, if you have an application in the system you do not need to reapply if your child changes school within Newham. Families do not even have to reapply when their child moves from primary to secondary school as Pupil Services will notify secondary schools of the free school meal status for the year 6 pupils due to start at their school.   

How is free school meal entitlement determined (worked out)?

Pupil Services submit the applicants name, date of birth and national insurance number from the free school meal application form to the Department for Education’s eligibility checking service known as ECS for a decision. This database holds all live (current) benefit information provided by the Department for Work and Pensions and Asylum Seeker information form the Home Office.  The ECS provides the entitlement status.  

Should families be asked for proof of their benefits for free school meals purposes?

No, since the introduction in 2014 no local authority or school in England should ask for proof of benefit.  Entitlement is determined via the Department for Education’s ECS. If any school located in Newham asks for proof of benefit please notify Pupil Services immediately​ or call 020 8430 2000.     

Do Council officers or school staff see the amount of benefit applicants are receiving?

No, the Department for Education’s ECS only provides one of three outcomes, entitled, not entitled or details not found.  This means applicants personal benefit information remains confidential.

What happens when a new claim form is received by Pupil Services?

The applicants details are uploaded to the Department for Education’s ECS for a decision. The outcome is returned to Pupil Services and if the first claim, an outcome letter will be sent to the applicant. The letter will apply to every child in the applicants immediate family as all children are linked on our database. If a family submits a second, third etc. form they will not receive a letter as our system is set up to only send outcomes to the original claim.  

The outcome of each claim is also sent to the child school so they can add this information to the pupil’s record. 

What happens if an applicants' entitlement to the qualifying benefits changes? 

Where a free school meal entitlement change is reported by the Department for Educations ECS  via Pupil Services weekly claim reviews we update our database, write to the applicants with their new status and notify the school.  


School meals evaluation report

The school meals evaluation report​ (PDF) provides an update on the provision of school meals in primary and secondary schools in Newham. The report examines the nutritional value of foods for school aged children which should support their growth and educational achievements at school.

Schools play an important role in providing nutritious food to their pupils and school lunch is a pivotal meal in every child's day.
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