Free school meals trial for pre-school, primary and secondary pupils begins roll out - are your kids covered?

A trial offering ALL school children aged 3-14 free school dinners is being rolled out.

School children eating their dinner at the table and drop in of pre-shool children eating school dinner
(Image credit: Getty / Getty)

Free school meals are being rolled out at dozens of locations giving ALL pre-school, primary and secondary school children aged 3-14 free food - but are your kids covered?

The initiative comes after a successful campaign to give more youngsters free school meals, amid the cost of living crisis. And a campaign that was first highlighted by footballer Marcus Rashford.

He also pushed the government to launch an investigation into the food parcels organised by school meals supplier, Chartwells, which he described as "scandalously inadequate" during a call to Boris Johnson.

This latest development of the scheme aims to give 'every child' something to eat at school and 'take some pressure away from families' who are struggling financially and in the trial approximately 14,000 children will benefit during term time.

The roll out of the scheme follows in the footsteps of children in Newham, Islington, Southwark and Tower Hamlets who already benefit from free school meals. 

The move will save families up to £550 per child a year, the council said.

Where are free school meals being rolled out?

Free school meals for ALL pre-school, primary and secondary aged pupils is being rolled out in the London borough of Westminster. Under the trial initiative children aged 3 to 14 in the Westminster City Council borough will receive the free meals from the beginning of the new academic year in September 2023, thanks to a £2m cash injection by the council.

In addition, two-year-olds who currently access the Free Early Education Entitlement in the City will also receive targeted help. The ambition is to roll out this offer by September.

The scheme will initially run to July 2024 – with a view to extending it beyond that.

Cllr Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, said, "We want to take some pressure away from families at a time when we know they are already struggling. Some parents go without to fill a lunchbox with whatever is left in the cupboard - however meagre - to ensure their child has something to eat at school. It cannot be right that children in one of the richest cities on earth are being left to make do with scraps. We need to see equality built into the system for future generations."

He added, “I am proud we can now offer 14,000 Westminster children the chance of a nutritious lunch. I want Westminster to be a place where children can sit down together in the canteen without the anxiety and stigma of who can afford to eat. That lunch may now be free for those children, but we think the impact it can have on their wellbeing and life chances could be priceless.”

The step comes after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan later announced £130m of funding to feed more than 270,000 children, by giving ALL primary school children in London schools a free school meal for a year.

Who currently gets free school meals?

In England, children in Key Stage 1 (up to Year 2) already receive free meals which are funded by the Department for Education (DfE).

Currently parents of Key Stage 2 children have to pay for them to have a school meal, unless they earn less than the threshold of £7,400 a year excluding benefits and can apply online.

This will change in London from September 2023 until July 2024 under the new free school meals trial.

Will free school meals be rolled out across the UK?

Free school meals are not yet being rolled out across the UK. Despite calls for it to be widened out nationally, the Government has resisted. But a Free School Meals for All bill has been proposed in Parliament and you can help push by competing the form online and asking your local MP to support.

Zarah Sultana MP, said, "The Bill would extend free school meals to all primary school children, tackling the injustice of millions of kids going hungry. Together, we can end child food poverty."

Selina Maycock
Senior Entertainment Writer

Selina is currently a Senior Entertainment Writer for Goodto.com, formerly Senior Entertainment writer for Woman&Home, and My Imperfect Life with more than 16 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She currently writes a mix of Entertainment news - including celebrity births, weddings, reporting the the latest news about the Royal kids Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet as well as Family news stories from baby names to store closures and product recall warnings. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.