Last updated:

18th January 2024

Free school meals and extra funding for your child’s education

Extra funding for education

If you receive certain benefits, you can apply to a scheme called the pupil premium. You can apply from when your child starts school, and can talk to your child's school about how they use the funding. This includes:

  • Giving your school extra funding - up to £1300 per year, to help with your child’s education.
  • Allowing your child free school meals up until they leave.

Free school meals

Eligible children:

  • Every child gets free school meals from when they start school, up until they finish year 2
  • From year 3, only children who are signed up to the pupil premium will receive free school meals

Even though every child gets free school meals until the end of year 2, it’s still important to apply as your child's school will receive extra funding, which it can spend on things like extra staff, books or school trips.

How do I apply?

Your childcare provider will give you an application form to complete, which will then be sent to us. If you're eligible, the additional funding will be sent straight to your childcare provider.

Early Years Pupil Premium

Some 3 and 4 year-olds are eligible to receive extra funding for their nursery or pre school. To be eligible children must already be receiving free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds at a nursery or pre school.

You must also be receiving one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Income based jobseeker's allowance
  • Income related employment and support allowance
  • Support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit. This only applies if you're not entitled to Working tax credit and your annual income is less than £16,190
  • Working tax credit run on - this is paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit

Your child will also be eligible if they have:

  • Been looked after by the local authority for 1 day or more
  • Been adopted
  • Left care under a special guardianship or residence order

How can the funding be used?

The funding can't be used to reduce any costs you pay to the provider for additional services. 

It can be used to pay for:

  • Trips and visits
  • Extra members of staff

Making sure children are benefiting

The childcare provider will share with you how your child is benefiting from the funding. Ofsted will ask the childcare provider for evidence on how funding has made a difference to all the children who have received it. We will also visit your provider to support the delivery of the funding.

Find out more

If you would like to find out more please contact your childcare provider.

Alternatively, contact the Early Years Childcare and Play Team by:

You can also read our easy-read guide to free school meals.

My child isn't eligible

If your child doesn't qualify for free school meals, you can find out about how much they cost on our school meals web page.

To qualify for free school meals for your child you must receive one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Income-based job seeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Child Tax Credit - provided you are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income that does not exceed £16,190
  • The guarantee element of the State Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit (your household income must be less than £7,400 a year)

How to apply

To apply, you need to complete a free school meals and pupil premium application form (PDF document) and return it to your child's school.

Keep in mind that even if your child is in years 1 and 2, and automatically receives free school meals, you should still complete the application if you qualify. Signing up means that your child's school will receive extra funding to help with your child's education.

Transition protection

All pupils who become eligible until 31 March 2025 will remain so until the end of the phase of education they are in as of that date irrespective of change in financial circumstances or carers. You can voluntarily withdraw your child from FSM but this does not invalidate the protection. From September 2025, rolling re-checks will happen on a yearly basis as year 6 pupils move into secondary.

Protection will stop from 1 April 2025, all newly eligible children from then will undergo periodic checks, which will be confirmed nearer the time.

Free school uniform

If you need support with school uniform, local charity First Days can help by booking an appointment to visit the Elevate Centre in Wokingham. Visit the First Days website for more information.

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