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Free school meals

If you are visiting this page because you are querying the school meal voucher system, please contact your school directly.

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, the school(s) that your child(ren) attend will be informed and will be awarded additional funding. It will also mean that your child retains eligibility for free school meals for longer. If you are eligible, your child will remain eligible until at least 31 March 2025.

If you are applying for free school meals for your child starting Reception in September - please do not apply until after the summer term finishes in July

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.

The government has extended free school meal eligibility to include some families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) who receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Please see the section headed 'Families with no recourse to public funds' below for information or contact us on 0191 433 3729 or at

Apply for free school meals

Reasons to apply for free school meals

Boy enjoying school lunch
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 around £500 a year
  • the menu is varied to cater for all tastes and uses quality ingredients from local suppliers (Primary school mealsSecondary school meals)
  • meals can be provided either at your child's school, in takeaway format or by voucher - 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 qualifies for free school meals

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

  • you or your partner receive Child Benefit (for the child you are applying for)
  • the child is in full-time education, under 19 years of age
  • 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

In addition, you and your partner must receive 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 (see section 'Families with no recourse to public funds' for information)
  • Universal Credit - with a net earned family income of less than £7,400

Receipt of one of the above benefits will be checked with the relevant government departments (HMRC, DWP and Home Office) - 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

Families who may be eligible include (but are not limited to):

  • Zambrano carers
  • families with the right to remain in the UK under Article 8 of the ECHR
  • families receiving support under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and subject to a NRPF condition
  • Chen carers
  • families holding a BNO passport
  • Spousal visa holders
  • Work visa holders
  • Student visa holders
  • families with no immigration status

To be eligible for free school meals, your family's annual household income must be no higher than the following:

  • £22,700 for families outside of London with one child
  • £26,300 for families outside of London with two or more children

This includes any wider income or support you may be receiving in addition to any earnings from employment.

You must also have less than £16,000 in savings, including any shares, investments and bank accounts, but not including your home.

If you think you fall into one of these groups, do not complete the application form. Instead, call us on 0191 433 3729 or email with the heading 'NRPF free school meals' in the subject field. Provide your contact details so we can get in touch with you.

Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM)

The government has made provisions so that every child who attends school in key stage 1 (reception, year 1 and year 2) will be given a school meal regardless of their circumstances. However, when your child starts in year 3 you will need to apply for the means-tested scheme as detailed above in the 'Who qualifies for free school meals' section. If you do not, you will be charged for the meals by the school.

Even if your child is in key stage 1, if you receive any of the benefits listed above, you should also apply under the means-tested scheme so that the school can receive the extra funding detailed below.

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 your school can claim additional funding called pupil premium.

The amounts the school can claim are as follows:

Primary - reception to year 6£1455£1480
Secondary - year 7 to year 11£1035£1050

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. 

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 2025 for most cohorts. 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 phone or email using the contact details below.

Sometimes in order to process your application we need to request additional information and we would contact you in the first instance for this.  It may be easier for your school to obtain that information for us on your behalf.  If this is an option there is a section on the application form which you can inform us that you are giving your consent for us to advise the school that we have asked you for further additional information, we won't tell the school what it is we are requesting.  However, it would allow the school to ask you to provide what it is we have requested, as this may speed up the time we take to process your application.  Please ensure you complete the relevant part of the form in the declaration section.

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 (opens new window)

Application form for free school meals (Word doc) [64KB] (opens new window)

Contact us

Free School Meals Team
Benefit Section
Civic Centre
Regent Street

0191 433 3729