Universal Free School Meals

What does the introduction of Universal Free School Meals mean for your school?

From September 2014 all schools in England will be obliged to provide free school meals to all reception, year 1 and year 2 pupils.

Due to the changes in The Children and Families Bill, schools will have a legal duty to offer free meals for full-time infants.  This applies to all state-funded schools in England including academies, free schools and pupil referral units.

All meals produced by your school will have to continue to comply with the School Food Standards to ensure that children get the nutrition they need across the whole school day.  Although a hot option is not mandatory, it is expected to be offered routinely. All infant pupils must be offered a free school meal but your school continues to hold the freedom to set policy in relation to packed lunches.

For each meal taken up by a newly eligible pupil your school will receive flat rate funding of £2.30 per meal. Pupils who receive free school meals under the current entitlements will be unaffected by the changes to the Children’s and Families Bill.  Schools will be expected to continue to fund meals for pupils who are eligible for free school meals under the current criteria in the same way that they do now.

Your school will be notified of your full year’s revenue funding allocation for 2014 to 2015 in June 2014 from your Local Authority.  Your allocation is based on pupil data and the assumption that 87% of pupils will opt-in for free meals, but if your school uptake does not match this then the subsequent funding will be adjusted.

For the 2014 -2015 financial year the government has pledged £150 million of capital funding to support any schools which require kitchen or dining refurbishment to deal with the universal free school meals roll-out.  As well as £22.5 million to provide additional transitional funding to small schools (150 pupils or less).

As of April 2014 support is available to schools from The Children’s Food Trust and the Lead Association for Catering in Education.  This support will consist of telephone and an online advice service.  For organisations requiring more support a direct-support service will also be available. Online resources are available on the Children’s Trust website.

What can Educate Do?

Implementing the changes needed for universal free meals can be stressful and time-consuming, especially in the short time period before its rollout in September.  Educate has extensive experience working in the education sector and we aim to reduce the administrative burden from school leaders in order to allow more time to be spent on teaching and learning.

For more information on how we can help prepare your school for universal school meals please contact Tom Goldsmith – tomgoldsmith@educateservice.co.uk or call the office on 020 3411 1080.