Suffolk/Norfolk: Missing Free School Meals Costs Schools Millions

7 March 2013, 12:22 | Updated: 7 March 2013, 12:59

Parents not signing up to free school meals is costing schools millions of pounds in lost government funding.

Heart been told parents worrying about people finding out their financial circumstances is one of the main reasons they aren't signing up to the free school meals that they are entitled to.

But, for every child signed up the school gets £900 from the government to spend on learning.

That means some schools are missing out on thousands of pounds.

Suffolk County Council say they are pushing to make sure every schools gets the government money it is entitled to.  They've told Heart Official estimates suggest that as much as 32% of those eligible in Suffolk don't take up the support. The funding could bring in a total of £4.9 million a year to help Suffolk schools.

Children don’t have to take the meal - but the school still gets the additional Government funding to support learning.

Libby Brown, headteacher at Kyson Primary School in Woodbridge told Heart: “The key to this is sharing information. We recently increased the number of children on our free school meal register by sharing with parents the sum of money that we received from Government last year and the sum that we could receive next year.

“Recent Department for Education information made it clear that people in Suffolk are not claiming their entitlement and at Kyson, it made us look hard at how we could encourage more of our parents. We made it clear that parents can apply even if they wish their children to continue with packed meals, and it worked."  

Hear the full interview from Headteacher Libby Brown:

Free School Meals - Headteacher Libby Brown

Are your children entitled to free school meals?

Children will be able to get free school meals if their family is in receipt of any of the following benefits:
Income Support
Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance
Income related Employment and Support Allowance
Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
Child Tax Credit, as long as they do not get a Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenues & Customs) that does not exceed £16,190
If you are supported under Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
Working Tax Credit during the four-week period immediately after your employment finishes or after you start to work less hours per week.

If a child is eligible, parent only need to complete on short simple form. The form is available from school offices and county council websites:

Suffolk County Council

Norfolk County Council