Free school meals

Information about free school meals

Universal infant free school meals

All pupils in key stage 1 (reception, year 1 and year 2) in state-funded schools in England are entitled to receive a free school lunch, through the introduction of the government’s universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) policy.

For more information contact

Advice on the scheme

Property and facilities services (Carillion and OCC) offer advice to schools on the free school meal scheme. Where parents meet the criteria for eligibility, each school has a legal duty to provide a free meal to the pupil(s).

The school is responsible for assessing and authorising free school meal entitlement. Please refer to instructions to staff on how to assess entitlement. Any further queries can be referred to


From April 2015, the threshold figure which forms part of the tax credit free school meal eligibility category is £16,190.

Pupils whose parents/carers receive the following support payments are entitled to free school meals (assuming the parent does not receive Working Tax Credit).

Under the current criteria, children who receive, or whose parents receive one or more of the following support payments are entitled to receive free school meals and eligible for two year old funding.

  • Income-based and contribution-based Jobseekers Allowance or ESA on an equal basis
  • Income Support 
  • Income Based Jobseekers Allowance 
  • Income-related employment and support allowance 
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income, as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, that does not exceed £16,190
  • Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
  • Where a parent is entitled to Working Tax Credit run-on (the payment someone receives for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
  • Working Tax Credit, provided they have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190 per year (eligible for two Year Old Funding only)
  • Universal Credit

Instructions to school staff

  1. All parents/guardians of pupils at your school should be made aware of the ‘Free School Meals’ scheme, which operates in all schools. You may want to publicise in your newsletter or in a letter to parents/guardians. Here is an example you may want to use: Appendix A (doc format, 21Kb)
  2. Those parents/guardians who qualify must be asked to complete and return to your school an Application Form for Free School Meals - Appendix B (pdf file, 89Kb) together with their up-to-date proof of ‘benefit’ documentation.  
  3. Please be aware that the Child Tax Credit ‘benefit’ will need to meet certain criteria and does not stand as an entitling ‘benefit’ on its own.
  4. Should the parent/guardian meet the eligibility for free school meals then the pupil(s) can be granted free school meals from the date of application, but parents/guardians should be made aware of their legal duty to inform the school of any changes to their ‘benefit’ and that they will be asked to fill out another application form every 6 months. It is advisable that a 6-month check be carried out for your School’s record and another application form sent to the parent/guardian to re-apply.
  5. The following details should be recorded in a Free School Meal Authorisation Register.

You may want to use this example: Appendix E (doc format, 32Kb)

  1. Where families have children at more than one school, please process the application and, if approved, pass the relevant information on to the other schools in question.
  2. The Register of Free School Meals Authorisation will be subject to inspection by Audit and Risk Management Services.

Oxfordshire County Council Catering Service

Following the collapse of Carillion, Oxfordshire County Council now provide catering services directly to a number of schools throughout the county. We are committed to helping to develop great eating habits in young people by providing nutritious, tasty and exciting dishes created by a dedicated team and freshly prepared by the onsite catering staff.

The service is looking to regain the prestigious Food for Life Bronze Catering Mark. which did not transfer back in-house with the service

Get in touch for details

Maintained schools can contract through Education Support Services in order to have the County Council Catering Service provide their school meals. This will give the additional advantage of knowing that any kitchen equipment repairs and maintenance will be undertaken at no additional cost to the school.

Academy schools and those seeking a more commercial arrangement can contract direct with the Council (either through a SLA, or a more formal legal contract, for Academies) and will be offered a choice of pricing options based on individual school needs, meal uptake, length of agreement, management fee and meal price.

If you would like to find out more about our service, or you would like to discuss a bespoke price for your school contact Gail Witchell


Menus change twice a year, ensuring the freshest seasonal produce sourced wherever possible from local Oxfordshire suppliers

The latest menu (pdf format, 2Mb)

Our next new menu will start after the October half term

Our dedicated team, using their expert knowledge and mindful of current food trends, create our menus. These are then tried and tested and nutritionally analysed to ensure that they conform to the latest government guidelines and industry best practice. OCC support healthier lifestyles by:

  • Baking rather than frying
  • Keeping down the salt, sugar and fat content of all our meals
  • Promoting lean meat and poultry, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as vegan and vegetarian options

Engaging with schools and pupils

Pupil feedback will be sought at the end of each menu life with the use of comment cards specifically designed for primary schools. This feedback is used to help with the development of future menus, but we would be happy to accept feedback from schools too.

Members of the management team attend parent’s events; school council and governor’s meetings to be available to answer any questions regarding the meals at the school.

Meal prices

The prices for primary, special and nursery school meals are unchanged for the second consecutive year:

  • Pupil meals £2.20 (no VAT to be paid)
  • Adult meals £3.10 (inc VAT)

Pupil meal income should be collected prior to any meals being taken and banked and coded as per current arrangements. Please note that any shortfall in income collected is the responsibility of the school, who will be required to make up any shortfall in income collected.

Adult meal income should be banked to your own school account and OCC Catering Service will invoice the net price per adult each half term. It is the responsibility of the school to account for the VAT collected.

Charges do not apply to schools making their own arrangements for school meals.

Schools are also responsible to ensure that when a meal is given on the free school meals scheme, the pupil is fully entitled to it and that a review of parent/guardians' benefits are undertaken every 6 months.

Feedback on the service

For feedback on menus, food, staff or general service email at