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.

If your child is at a maintained nursery school or class, you can apply to claim free school meals provided the child attends for a full day, and you are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits

For more information contact

Advice on the scheme

Oxfordshire County Council Catering services 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 authorizing free school meal entitlement. Please refer to instructions to staff on how to assess entitlement. Any further queries can be referred to


As of April 2018, If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in on 31 March 2023. – however if you have a sibling starting at a later date your information will need to be checked again

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit - if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.

Your child may also get free school meals if you get any of these benefits and your child is both:

If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they’re in on 31 March 2023.

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, 43Kb)
  2. Those parents/guardians who qualify must be asked to complete and return the bottom of Appendix A to your school together with their up-to-date proof of ‘benefit’ documentation.  
  3. Please be aware that the Child Tax Credit ‘benefit’ and Universal Credit 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 if a sibling starts the school they must be checked again as their circumstances could have changed. Once a child is entitled they will keep their entitlement until March 2022.
  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

Oxfordshire County Council once again 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

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 £2.35 (no VAT to be paid)
  • Adult meals £3.30 (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.6Adult 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.

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