Schools

Free school meals change could add thousands to schools’ incomes

Leaders urged to help children previously ineligible due to their parents' immigration status register for support

Leaders urged to help children previously ineligible due to their parents' immigration status register for support

School meals

Schools are being encouraged to get thousands of pounds of extra funding by helping children previously ineligible for free school meals (FSM) because of their parents’ immigration status to register before the next school census.

The government announced earlier this year that it was making permanent its extension of FSM eligibility to children from families with “no recourse to public funds”. These children previously did not qualify, even if their household income was below the threshold.

Schools receive up to £1,385 in pupil premium funding for every child who has been eligible for FSMs at any point in the past six years.

Leaders initially had to make a separate claim for the pupil premium for children with “no recourse to public funds”, but the process will be rolled into the school census from next month.

Citizens UK is encouraging schools to sign up eligible families before the census on January 19 and then record their status in their submission to the Department for Education.

James Asfa, the group’s assistant director, said that not all parents and schools knew about the change “which means they could lose out on meals for children and a significant amount of funding for their school”.

It is not known how many children with “no recourse to public funds” live in England, but Citizens UK said larger schools could end up tens of thousands of pounds better-off.

St Mary’s Lewisham Primary School in south London has already gained more than £13,000 by supporting 10 pupils to sign up for meals under the extension.

Marta Tildesley, the school’s family support worker, said: “This is a significant amount of money that has made a big difference.”

Families can apply for free school meals on the DfE website.

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