To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that additional funding to support the education of children who are entitled to free school meals can be claimed by schools in the event that those children do not claim those free school meals.
We are determined to give every child, regardless of their background, the very best start in life. Both free school meals (FSM) and pupil premium (which links to FSM eligibility) are key to this and we want all parents whose children are entitled FSM, to apply for them.
The current eligibility criteria for FSM requires the parent (or pupil) to be both in receipt of a specified benefit and to make a request for the meal to be provided free of charge.
To support this the Department for Education provides an electronic Eligibility Checking System (ECS), which allows local authorities to check data held by DWP, the Home Office and HMRC in order to establish FSM eligibility. The Department has also provided a model registration form and accompanying guidance, which schools can use as part of their enrolment process.
We want to make it as simple as possible for schools and local authorities to determine eligibility for FSM, and the Department is looking at what can be done in the longer term to make the FSM registration processes even more efficient.