Money Wellness
Primary school children being served free school dinners
category iconcost of living
calendar icon09 Jan 2024

Mayor to carry on funding free school meals for all primary pupils in London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has set aside £140m so that state primary pupils in the capital will continue to receive free school meals during the next academic year.

As many as 287,000 kids in the city are already benefitting from a free meal every lunchtime, after the policy was introduced in 2023/24.

More than 17 million meals had already been paid for between the beginning of the academic year in September and Christmas.

Figures provided by the Mayor’s office suggest this will save families up to £1,000 over two years for each child they have.

Benefits of free school meals

Khan was keen to extend the scheme to:

  • help parents struggling with the continuing cost-of-living crisis
  • make sure kids are guaranteed at least one healthy and nutritious meal a day
  • allow kids to perform better at school
  • reduce the stigma surrounding free school meals
  • improve the relationship between families and schools by removing the need for schools to chase hard-up parents for lunch money
  • encourage kids to try new foods

Cost of living continues to bite

The Mayor’s announcement on free school meals coincides with new research carried out by YouGov on behalf of City Hall that found:

  • over a third (35%) of parents or carers of children have cut down on food and other essentials to try and save money
  • more than four in ten (41%) are using less water, energy or fuel to reduce costs
  • three in ten (30%) are struggling financially

Overwhelming support for free school meals for all pupils

A separate poll, again carried out by YouGov on behalf of City Hall, highlighted the popularity of offering free school meals to all primary school kids rather than means testing.

  • 92% were in favour
  • 71% said they were behind the policy because it saves them time
  • 62% supported it because the meals are healthy
  • 62% welcomed the move because it helps them financially

Vital funding

Commenting on the extension of the scheme, Khan said:

“Sadly Londoners continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis and with the government failing to step forward to deliver these meals, we have worked hard to find the money to provide this vital funding for the next academic year.”

What about the rest of the country?

England

Around the rest of England, all state school kids get free school meals while they’re in reception, year one and year two.

Individual councils may choose to continue providing free school meals to all children throughout primary school. Check what free school meals your council provides.

Free school meals aren’t counted as a ‘public fund’ for immigration purposes. This means, children can get them regardless of their, or their parents’, immigration status.

Scotland

In Scotland, all children in primary one to five get free school meals.

Wales

The Welsh government has committed to providing all primary school children in Wales free school meals by 2024. Get in touch with your local council for more information.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, your child can get free school meals if

  • you’re receiving certain benefits
  • you’re getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act; or
  • they have a statement of special educational needs and need a special diet, or they board at a special school

Find out more about free school meals in Northern Ireland.

 

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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