Free School Meals: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 9th June 2020.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, for what reason schools with a budget surplus in the current financial year are not able to reclaim the costs of providing free school meal vouchers to eligible students where it has not been possible for them to use the National Voucher Scheme; and what assessment he has made of the effect of that policy on schools that have a budget surplus with a high number of children eligible for free school meals.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of capping the maximum amount a school is required to pay from its own in-year surplus to meet the cost of providing free school meal vouchers.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of allowing all schools, regardless of budget, to be reimbursed for providing free school meal vouchers where it has not been possible for those schools to use the National Voucher Scheme.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Schools will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year, as usual. We are providing additional funding to schools, on top of their existing budgets, to cover unavoidable costs incurred due to the COVID-19 outbreak that cannot be met from their existing resources.

It is reasonable for taxpayers to expect that further public funding through this period is not adding to existing surpluses that are held by schools. In this context, schools are not eligible to make a claim for additional funding if they expect to be able to add to their existing historic surpluses in their current financial year, regardless of their school context or pupil characteristics.

However, schools are eligible for reimbursement where the additional costs associated with COVID-19 would result in a school having to use historic surpluses; would increase the size of a historic deficit; or prevent the planned repayment of a historic deficit.

Where schools have exceptional circumstances, we will consider extending limits on a case by case basis. This is set out in the guidance on the fund which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-schools/school-funding-exceptional-costs-associated-with-coronavirus-covid-19-for-the-period-march-to-july-2020.

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