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Free school meals and help paying for school uniforms

Coronavirus (COVID-19): free school meal updates

Your child will receive free school meals differently if their school has asked them to self-isolate. Free School Meals is a means tested benefit - it is not the universal free school meals for children in reception, year 1 and year 2.

If your child receives free school meals and their school tells them to self-isolate they will receive either:

  • A daily 'grab bag' meal, or
  • A food parcel to last either 5 or 10 days, depending how long they need to self-isolate

What you need to do: if your child already receives free school meals, you don't need to do anything. Your child's school should contact you directly about what will happen next.

If your child is newly eligible for free school meals due to a change in your circumstances, you'll need to apply using the application form on this page.

Find out about free school meals or getting help with paying for school uniforms.

Apply for free school meals

To apply for free school meals:

  1. You and your child must both live in the borough of Rochdale or the city of Manchester. If you're claiming from an address in the city of Manchester, your child must attend a school in the borough of Rochdale. If you and your child live in any other borough regardless of where they go to school, you should contact your local council to apply instead.
  2. Complete the free school meals online application form below. Alternatively, you can pick up a paper form from your child's school.
  3. If we award free school meals for a period you've already paid for, you can request a refund by contacting your school directly.

You do not need to re-apply for free school meals every year unless your circumstances change.

Apply for free school meals (opens in a new window)

Eligibility​ for free school meals

Nursery students: to be eligible for free school meals:

  • Your child must attend a Rochdale Borough Council maintained nursery.
  • Your child must receive education before and after lunch.
  • You must also receive one of the qualifying benefits listed in the section below.

Reception, year 1 and year 2 students: 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.

Year 3 -Year 11 students: to be eligible for free school meals:

  • You, as the parent or guardian, must receive Child Benefit for the child you are responsible for.
  • You must also receive one of the qualifying benefits listed in the section below.

16-19 year old students: to be eligible for free school meals:

  • You must go to secondary school or a sixth form attached to a secondary school.
  • You or your parent or guardian must also receive one of the qualifying benefits listed in the section below.

Qualifying benefits for free school meals

These are the qualifying benefits for free school meals:

  • 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: your child is only eligible for free schools meals under Universal Credit if you and your partner have net earnings of less than £7,400 per year. We'll check your earnings with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). This criteria came into place on Sunday, 1 April 2018. However:
    • 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 is no longer the case. This means 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.

Change of circumstances for free school meals

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

Please get in touch using the contact details on this page to let us know about a change in your circumstance.

Backdating free school meals

Free school meals are generally awarded from the date we get your 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, especially if there are arrears involved, providing you were getting a qualifying benefit for the whole of the period. You must give good reasons, in writing, as to why you want the payments backdating.

Help paying for school uniforms

School uniforms including all the extras can be expensive. The following information may help you reduce some of the costs.

  • Speak to your child's school directly. Some schools provide help towards school uniform costs or hold sales where you can buy second hand uniforms. Find your school's contact details
  • Contact your local children's centre. They may have some second hand school uniforms available. Find details for your local children's centre
  • Search for charitable trust grants. There are a number of charitable trusts offering grants and scholarships to help pay for school supplies, including uniforms. You'll need to meet certain criteria to be eligible.
  • Buy generic items to keep uniform costs down. For example, buying skirts, trousers and shirts from supermarkets and high street chain stores. Please check the school uniform policy at your child's school before buying in case generic items aren't allowed.
  • See if you can apply for benefits if you're on a low income. You can use benefit payments to help pay for your child's school uniform. View benefits and support available in the borough
  • View our money advice. It may help you save money for school uniforms.

Complain about the cost of your child's school uniform

Each school has its own uniform policy which is decided by the school's governing body. You can complain directly to your child's school if you're unhappy with the uniform, including how much it costs.

Related pages


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