Need help with school costs such as meals, uniform and transport?

The cost of keeping a child at school can be quite a test. As a parent, you may be entitled to certain types of financial help, depending on your circumstances and whether your child is of compulsory school age or the type of school he or she attends.  The help could come from the local education authority, a board of school governors or parents association or a charity and could include free school meals and milk or to provide help with transport and clothing costs.

Local education authorities must give you written information about what help they provide and the conditions that apply. Details of the help provided by governing bodies or parents associations are best obtained from the head teacher or directly from the organisation concerned. Help from charities is usually very specifically targeted for example to people living in certain areas or belonging to certain religions. Information on help from charities can be obtained from the local CAB

In England and Wales, local education authority maintained schools must provide a free midday meal to pupils if they or their parents receive:

  • income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • the guarantee part of Pension Credit
  • support for asylum seekers under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Child Tax Credit, but only if they are not also getting Working tax Credit (WTC) and their income is below a certain amount. However, if they are in the four week run-on period for WTC after stopping work or reducing working hours, then they may be eligible for free school meals.

Local education authorities are also required to provide a midday meal free of charge to pupils attending special schools who are designated to require a special diet and/or are boarders.   Pupils getting free meals may not always get the same meals as those paying in full. In cafeteria systems, pupils entitled to free school meals can choose food up to a certain fixed cost.

In England and Wales, local education authorities have discretion to give help with the cost of school clothing for pupils in maintained schools, colleges for further education and sixth form colleges.  This can include uniform and non-uniform clothes, shoes and sports kit.  Surrey County Council do not provide school uniform grants but In some schools and colleges, help may be available from the governing body or parents’ association.

Citizens Advice is campaigning to encourage more parents to challenge local authorities that refuse to consider requests for grants.  If you would like to support the campaign, come and tell us about your experiences at your local CAB. You can also come and talk to us if you need advice on your entitlement regarding school transport costs.

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