Free School Meals

If your child is entitled to free school meals (FSM) it could save your family £370 per child per year.

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.

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:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of State 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

Please note your child is not entitled to free school meals if you receive any Working Tax Credit.

I think that my child may be eligible for free school meals, but I want to provide them with a packed lunch each day. Should I still apply?

Yes. Even if you do not intend to use the daily allowance that will be available, your child being eligible for free school meals may result in the school being eligible to receive additional funding of up to £1,320 per pupil under the government’s Pupil Premium policy. This additional income is extremely important to schools and contribute towards paying for school activities, such as music lessons and school trips. If you don’t apply for free school meals, our school will miss out on this additional funding.

You can find out more about Pupil Premium funding here.

How do I apply for free school meals?

It’s easy. You can apply online for free school meals here.

If you would like some assistance in completing your application, please contact the school on 0191 285 1793 to arrange for an appointment.

What happens next?

Information on your application form will be used by the local authority will check with your benefit provider and confirm whether or not you are eligible for free school meals.

Applications are processed within 5 to 10 working days, or sooner in quieter periods. If there are any errors or issues on your application, this may result in delays in processing your application, and the local authority will contact you to resolve these issues.

The local authority will write to both you and the school to inform us of the outcome of your application and what date your child’s free school meals will start.

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.

How does my child get their free school meal when they are at school?

Once the school receives notification from the local authority that your child is eligible for free school meals, this information is communicated to our catering providers,Chartwells, who will update your child’s status on the cashless catering system.

When your child joins our school, they will have been issued with an online dinner money account that is linked to the ParentPay system, and that pupils can access either using a PIN number or with a biometric finger print.

For each day that your child is eligible for free school meals, a payment of £2.10 will be credited to this account, and your child is able to use this credit to purchase a meal.

To purchase their meal, your child simply has to select their meal, take it to the tills, and use their fingerprint / PIN to make payment. Your child’s free school meal eligibility status is always kept confidential, and all children follow the same process to purchase their meals regardless of FSM status.

If your child wishes to purchase a meal that costs more than £2.10, they must pay the difference either in cash or from their ParentPay account. If your child does not purchase a meal on a particular day (e.g. due to being absent or opting to bring a packed lunch), the amount that has been credited to your child’s account at the start of the day will then be returned to the local authority. Any remaining balances will not carry over to the next day.

Will my child be able to purchase a full meal for the £2.10 daily allowance?

Yes. Our catering provider, Chartwells, have developed a daily meal deal option that comprises of a drink, a well-balanced hot meal, and a pudding or fruit for £2.10. If you child does not like the meal option, they may select alternative items however they must be able to pay the difference in cost between the £2.10 allowance and the total cost of the individual items selected.

It is advisable for parents to provide healthy snacks for their child to each at break times to supplement their diet, and provide a water bottle for drinking.

Will I still be able to see what my child has purchased to eat and drink?

Yes, the online dinner money account is linked to ParentPay where parents may log in to access information about their child’s purchases.

Can my child still bring a packed lunch to school if they wish?

Yes. Pupils may bring their own packed lunch from home on days where they do not wish to have a school meal. Any balance left from the daily allowance will not carry over to the next day.

What happpens if my circumstances change?

You must let the local authority know immediately about any change of circumstance by contacting them:

  • By telephone: 0191 278 7878. Ask for “Free school meals”
  • By email:
  • By post: Newcastle City Council, Admissions and Information Service, Room 225, Barras Bridge, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH

If your benefits stop, your child’s free school meal entitlement will end on the same date. If this means that your child has been receiving free meals when they were no longer eligible, you may be required to pay the school back.

The local authority audit all free school meals recipients on a regular basis to make sure they are still eligible. If you receive a letter stating that we believe you are no longer eligible, this is likely to be because your circumstances and/or qualifying benefits have changed. Your child’s entitlement to free school meals will stop on the date mentioned in the letter and you will have to start to pay for meals at their school. If you think your child is still eligible following an audit, you will need to reapply.