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Free school meals

​​​​​​​​​​​​​School pupils aged between 4 - 16 and pupils aged between 16 - 19 who go to a sixth form attached to a secondary school, may be able to get free school meals.

All pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools in England are eligible for 'universal infant free school meals'. This includes academies, free schools, pupil referral units and alternative provision as well as maintained schools.

If you're eligible for free school meals based on the criteria below, please complete the application form. Your child’s eligibility will attract additional funding for their school known as a Pupil Premium payment. This money helps the school to improve the education they provide.​

Apply for free school meals

Please complete the free school meals application form and send it to us using the details on the form to apply for free schools meals.

Download a free school meals application form (180kb pdf)

Alternatively, you can pick up a form from your child's school. 

You don't need to re-apply for free school meals every year unless your circumstances change.

If we award free school meals for a period that you've already paid for and you want a refund, please contact the school directly.

Eligibility​ for free school meals

You can apply for free school meals if you and your child live in Rochdale borough or if you and your child live in Manchester borough and attend a school in Rochdale borough.

If you and your child live in any other borough, you should contact your local council to claim free school meals.

To be eligible for free school meals you must receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support (IS).
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (IBJSA).
  • An income-related employment and support allowance.
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you aren't entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an income that doesn't exceed the current year's level).
  • The guaranteed element of state Pension Credit.
  • Working Tax Credit during the 4-week period immediately after your employment finished.
  • ​​Universal Credit - please see information on eligibility below

Additional requirements

  • You, as the parent or guardian, must receive Child Benefit for the child you are responsible for.
  • Children who receive IS or IBJSA in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals.
  • Children attending Rochdale Borough Council maintained nurseries, providing they receive education before and after lunch, and whose family receives a qualifying benefit, are entitled to receive free school meals.​​

Eligibility for applicants on Universal Credit

The eligibility for free school meals for applicants on Universal Credit changed on Sunday, 1 April 2018. From this date onwards your child will only be eligible for free schools meals under Universal Credit if you and your partner have net earnings of less than £7,400 per year. The local authority will check earnings with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).


  • If your child was eligible for free school meals before Sunday, 1 April 2018, they'll stay eligible until Thursday, 31 March 2022, regardless of if you or your partner's income changes.
  • After Thursday, 31 March 2022, your child will stay eligible until the end of their current phase of education. For example, if your child is in year 4 in 2022, they will remain eligible until they finish primary school but will no longer be eligible for free school meals in secondary school if you and your partner's net income is more than £7,400 per year.
  • Before Sunday, 1 April 2018, any sibling living with a child who received free school meals would automatically qualify. This will no longer always be the case. This means that a child who receives free school meals until March 2022 may have a sibling who is not eligible because their parent's net income is over the threshold of £7,400 per year at the time their application is made.

​If your circumstances change

If your or your child’s circumstances change, free school meals may be withdrawn. You must tell us of all changes in your circumstances.

Backdating free school meals

Free school meals are generally awarded from the date we get the application.

If there's a break of 4 to 5 weeks in a claim for free school meals, they would normally be reinstated back to the date of cancellation providing you are receiving a qualifying benefit.

It's possible for free school meals to be backdated,6 especially if there are arrears involved, providing the claimant was getting a qualifying benefit for the whole of the period. The parent must give good reasons, in writing, as to why they want their child's school meals payments backdating.

Is other financial help avail​able?

Other help is available for pupils aged 16-19 in full-time education, from the Local Education Authority.

If your child is struggling with the costs of learning they should speak to student services at their school, college or training provider for more information.


0300 303 8870

Phone: Monday-Friday 8.30am-5.30pm.
Closed for training Monday 11am-11.30am.

Postal address
Revenues and Benefits Service
PO Box 490
Rochdale OL16 9AJ