Nursery free school meals FAQs


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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.