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Free School Meals Auto Enrolment Project

As part of the Free School Meals Auto Enrolment Project, some parents and carers with a child or children who we think may be eligible for free school meals, and not currently claiming them, will receive a letter offering to check their free school meal eligibility and auto enrol them to free school meals if they are eligible. Parents and carers do have the right to opt out if they wish.

Letters will be sent to parents and carers who may be eligible for free school meals where the child or children attend a school who use the City of York Free School Meals Eligibility Service, where a child or children are included on a housing benefit claim and currently not in receipt of benefit based Free School Meals.

This project involves the processing of your personal data, it's in the council’s legitimate interests to do so and it means that we can help families and schools get the services they need.

We'll use your surname, National Insurance Number and your date of birth so that we can check if you qualify for free school meals. When we use your information, the government’s electronic free school meals checking service advises whether you're eligible. Read more about how we use your data in the School Services and Admissions Privacy Notice.

We don't see any other information about you or your family when we use the checking service and we're not allowed to ask anything else from the Department of Work and Pensions, Inland Revenue or the Benefits Agency. The information is kept securely and we follow strict procedures about how we look after your personal information under the General Data Protection Regulations.

We'll advise parents, carers and schools if a child is eligible for free school meals following the eligibility check. Parents and carers will also be informed if their child is not eligible for free school meals after the eligibility check.

If your school does not use the Free School Meals Eligibility Service, but we think that you may be eligible for free school meals we will write to you to advise that you contact your child’s school directly and apply for free school meals. Be aware that they may require an additional application for their records.

Pupil Premium Funding

If you qualify for free school meals, your school can provide a meal for your child straight away. Schools can then include the number of children who qualify for free school meals in their Census Day information which they do in October. If schools do this, they receive the right level of funding from the government to support children who qualify for free school meals. This funding is called the Pupil Premium. For each child in primary school the Pupil Premium payment is £1,385 and for each child in secondary school it is £985. We want to make sure that we do everything we can to help schools receive the funding they are entitled to.

Please note: If your child or children attends a school who does not use our Free School Meals Eligibility Checking Service, you'll need to contact the school directly and may need to apply for free school meals directly to them as they manage their own free school meals application process.

Free school meals are only given to children attending schools (or school nurseries) over lunch time. If your child is 3 or 4 years old, accessing Free Early Learning at a private nursery or childminder, and you meet the criteria for free school meals, their provider will receive Early Years Pupil Premium. We'll automatically recheck your child’s entitlement to Free School Meals when they start school unless you choose to opt out.

Schools and Early Years providers use the Pupil Premium money to support the most disadvantaged children in school by helping them in lots of different ways. For example, some schools choose to offer help with practical things such as:

  • reducing the cost of uniforms, books or school trips
  • setting up a free breakfast club so children can have breakfast before schools starts, making sure all children are in class on time and ready to learn
  • investing in extra resources to support teaching and learning
  • employing skilled and trained professionals to work with individual children like speech therapists or Learning Mentors

The money must be used to help and support children.

Your child does not have to have a school meal, although one will be available free of charge at any time until your circumstances change and you no longer qualify. But the value of the meal is worth around £400 per year to you, and you could put the money you would spend on a packed lunch towards other things. Also, children will often eat meals at school if they see their friends having them. They often try different foods at school rather than at home.

Opt out of the Free School Meals Auto Enrolment Pilot

If you don’t want us to use your Housing Benefit information you can opt out of the pilot. Schools are there to help you as a family and will not receive the right Pupil Premium funding unless and until free school meals have been awarded. We cannot use your information for anything other than for the Free School Meals Auto Enrolment Project. Your child would not be treated any differently to any other child in school if they receive a free school meal.

If you do not want us to carry out the Free School Meals eligibility check to check your child’s eligibility, or to enrol your child onto the free school meals scheme, you must let us know as soon as possible and before the deadline within the letter. Email: or telephone: 01904 551554, option 3. We'll make a note of what you have told us.

Check your entitlement for free school meals on the Parent Portal.

Also see

Education Support Services

West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

Telephone: 01904 551554

Benefits appointments

Contact us for an appointment to get benefits advice in person at West Offices.

Make an appointment