13 January 2011

Northamptonshire County Council is calling on families to check their entitlement to free school meals to make sure their schools are getting all the government cash they are entitled under new government funding arrangements.

Parents who fail to claim for free school meals for their children despite being eligible for them could boost their school’s funding under the government’s new pupil premium scheme by registering before 21st January.

Councillor Andrew Grant, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We know that there has always been a proportion of families who are entitled to free school meals, but don’t claim them. There are many theories put forward to explain this, including different cultural expectations or the stigma of claiming for free meals.

“However, I want to make it clear to those parents that if they make a claim they will not only be giving their children access to school meals, they will also be making sure their school get the funding it is entitled to under the government’s new way of allocating cash to schools.

“Here in Northamptonshire, the success of our approach to promoting hot meals in schools has seen the numbers of children claiming free school meals more than double in the space of four years. It’s been two-pronged approach that has seen improvements in the quality and goodness of the food served in schools alongside the introduction of easier methods for parents to check their eligibility and apply.”

The numbers of children receiving free school meals has increased by 131 per cent between January 2007 and now. The figures are:

  • In January 2007 there were 5,539 pupils receiving free school meals
  • In January 2008 there were 6,196 pupils
  • In January 2009 there were 7,486 pupils
  • In January 2010 there were 10,272 pupils
  • In January 2011 there were 12,829 pupils

Under the pupil premium scheme announced in December, schools in England will get an extra £430 a year for each pupil from a poorer background. The government has indicated that schools will be encouraged to spend it on reducing class sizes or on more one-to-one tuition.

On the basis of the current figures, Northamptonshire schools are entitled to pupil premium funding of £5,516,470.

To find out if they are eligible to claim free school meals, parents can:

  • Send a text. Text ‘FSM’ followed by your full name, date of birth, National Insurance, your children’s name and school’s to 60622
  • Apply on line at - www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals
  • Call 01604 236656 to request an application form by post.
  • Or ask your school for further details.

No documentation is required for check for eligibility.

In order to be eligible for Free School Meals families need to be in receipt of one of the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit (with no Working Tax Credit and household income below £16190)
  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • National Asylum Seekers Support
  • Guarantee Element of State Pension Credit

You can apply for free school meals online at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals or call 01604 236656 to request an application form by post.