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Free school meals

If you are visiting this page because you are querying the school meal voucher system over the school holidays, please visit our Household support fund webpage. 

If you are applying for free school meals and your child will be going into reception in September 2022, please do NOT apply for free school meals until after the summer term finishes in July 2022.

Apply for free school meals

You can apply online for free school meals on the basis of your income if you meet the criteria below. If your application is successful then the school or schools that your child or children attend will be informed and will be awarded additional funding. This will secure extra funding for your child's school and will mean that your child retains eligibility for free school meals for longer. You should still apply for Free School Meals under the government's means tested scheme even if your child is presently not attending school due to the COVID-19 restrictions. If you are eligible, your child will remain eligible until at least 31 March 2023.

If you have a child or children who attend Heworth Grange School and you want to apply for free school meals, DO NOT complete our online form as we cannot process applications for this school.  Please contact the school directly and they will advise you how to claim.

If you are applying for free school meals because you receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 then you must phone us on 0191 433 3729 or email

Some families with no recourse to public funds may qualify for temporary free school meals during the current COVID-19 pandemic.  Please see the section headed "Families with no recourse to public funds" below for information.

Apply for free school meals

Why should I apply for a free school meal?

Boy enjoying school lunchEven if you are having financial difficulties you shouldn't have to worry about your child getting the nourishment they need to grow strong and healthy. Did you know:

  • you can claim free school meals if you receive child benefit and any of the benefits mentioned below
  • your child's school will also get extra funding if you apply
  • it could save you just under £400 a year
  • the menu is varied to cater for all tastes and uses quality ingredients from local suppliers - meals can be provided either at your child`s school, in take away format or by voucher. If you are eligible please check with the school.
  • it's quick and easy to apply - you can even do this over the phone
  • you don't need to provide any evidence
  • no one will know your child is getting free school meals on the basis of your income.

Who can get a free school meal?

Your child will qualify for free school meals if you meet the following criteria:

  • you or your partner receive child benefit (for the child you are applying for), and
  • the child is in full time education, under 19 years of age, and
  • the child attends a local authority school or sixth form (but not a sixth form college). If your child attends nursery, attendance must be full-time and your child must attend before and after lunch in a nursery run by Gateshead Council. This still applies even if your child is presently unable to attend school because of the COVID-19 restrictions on schools being open.

You and your partner must be in receipt of one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA - IB)
  • Guarantee Pension Credit
  • Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA Income Related)
  • Child Tax Credit - but not Working Tax Credit - and your income for Tax Credit purposes must be less than £16,190.00 (details are shown on your Tax Credit award notice)
  • Working Tax Credit Run-on
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit and your net earned family income is less than £7,400.

Receipt of one of the above benefits will be checked with the relevant government departments (HMRC, DWP and Home Office) and this may be done via the Eligibility Checking Service. By signing the declaration on the application form, you are giving your consent for us to check your eligibility through this service.

Families with no recourse to public funds

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, central Government is temporarily extending free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

These groups are:

  • children of Zambrano carers
  • children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction

These groups are also subject to a maximum household earnings threshold of £28,200 per annum.

This temporary extension of eligibility also applied to children of a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This group is not subject to a maximum household earnings threshold.

This extension is temporarily in place to support families facing difficulties due to the current unique circumstances.

If you think you fall into one of these groups do not complete the application form, please contact us on telephone number 0191 433 3729 or email us at with the heading covid-19 NRPF temporary free school meals in the subject field and provide us with contact details to enable someone from the team to get in touch with you.

Extra funding for your child's school

For every valid application for free school meals, not only will your child receive a healthy, nutritious meal, but for 2021/22 your school can claim additional funding called pupil premium.

The amounts the school can claim are as follows:

Primary - reception to year 6£1320£1385
Secondary - year 7 to year 11£935£985

The school can claim this funding each year for six years, which can really help to provide the best environment to support your child's learning and development.

If you qualify, the school or schools that your child or children attend will be informed and means-tested free school meals will be available immediately. Please check with the school to see how they will make a meal available to you during the current COVID-19 situation.

If your child was entitled to receive a free school meal on April 1 2018, or became entitled at any time after this date, in the majority of cases they will be protected to receive their free meal until Universal Credit has been fully rolled out.

This is estimated not to be until at least March 31 2023. Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, your child will then continue to receive a free school meal until the end of their current phase of education. Or when they leave school, whichever is the earliest.

You do not need to tell us if your circumstances change unless:

  • your child changes school or you move out of the area
  • you have moved into the area
  • you stop being responsible for the child or children concerned
  • you no longer give us consent to use the information provided or no longer wish your child to receive a free school meal

You can report any changes by telephone or email using the contact details below.

If there is a change to your child or children's eligibility for free school meals, we will automatically notify the relevant school.

Any data collected as part of this application will be treated in accordance with the Data Protection Act and used in accordance with the council's data use principles. Further details can be found at

Icon for word Application form for means tested free school meals [41.53KB]

Contact us

Free School Meals Team
Benefit Section
Civic Centre
Regent Street

0191 433 3729

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