Free School Meals: Finance

Department for Education written question – answered on 28th September 2022.

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Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Shadow Secretary of State for Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when his Department last made an assessment of the real terms value of the money allocated per meal for children on (a) universal infant and (b) other free school meals; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Minister of State (Education)

At the point of any spending review, value is considered when decisions are made on any changes to meal rates. Other features such as inflation and the changing cost of living are also factors taken into account.

Core schools funding has increased, including the ‘Free School Meals factor’, in the National Funding Formula (NFF) having increased to £470 per eligible pupil this year. In recognition of cost pressures, after the NFF rates were set, we provided additional core funding through a schools supplementary grant. As a result, mainstream schools funding is increasing by £2.5 billion in 2022/23, compared to last year.

Following extensive consultation when the national funding formula (NFF) was first introduced, schools attracted £440 per pupil in FSM funding in 2018/19 and 2019/20. Since then, the per pupil rate for FSM has increased in line with inflation forecasts in every year.

Ordinarily the new funding rates take effect from the start of the academic year, however, we recognise that schools are under cost pressures and some suppliers may have been forced to increase prices already. That is why we have backdated the increase to start from April 2022.

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