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Nursery free school meals FAQs

Do nursery children have a universal entitlement for free school meals (FSM) like infant children?

No. The universal free school meal entitlement begins when a child starts at school for reception, year 1 and year 2. Not all nursery children will be eligible for a free school meal.

Which early year’s providers must offer a Free School Meal?

Local authority run schools and academies are required to offer a free school meal to eligible nursery children. Schools with governor, private or charity run provision are not required to offer a free school meal.

What are the eligibility criteria?

It is a requirement that the child attends both before and after the lunch time period and also meets the benefits criteria. The same benefits criteria apply to nursery school children as apply to children in school.

Does it matter whether a child is attending for funded or bought hours?

No, as long as the applicant meets the criteria as above, it makes no difference whether they are funded to attend or whether they pay to attend.

Can all ages of children in the nursery receive a free school meal?

Yes, as long as the criteria are met, there is no lower age limit.

My school doesn’t have a kitchen. Do I still need to provide a free school meal?

Yes, many schools do not have the facilities to cook meals. If this is the case the meals can be bought in and delivered.

Do nursery schools have to provide a free school meal?

Yes, if they are a maintained nursery school then they must provide a free school meal to eligible children.

Does a free school meal have to be a hot dinner?

No, it just needs to be a meal that is free. All meals prepared at a maintained school must comply with the government Standards for School Food in England.

Can children in care claim free school meals?

No, Children in care are not eligible for free school meals as the payments made as part of the fostering allowance are intended to cover the cost of provision of all meals for the child.

Private fostering – Claims would need to be made to the free school meals team and eligibility checks carried out in the usual way.

A child is two and is eligible for the free Early Years Education Funding. Does this mean the child is eligible for free school meals?

It must be noted that the eligibility criteria for two-year-old funding and free school meals differ. However, if a two-year-old child applies for free school meals and is found eligible, both can be claimed.

How will schools know which children are eligible for a free school meal?

The Free School Meals team generates a list of eligible children from Capita One and sends these to schools. The School must ensure that the children on the list are attending both before and after the lunchtime period.