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Universal Infant Free School Meals – Your questions answered

Friday’s blog on Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) gave us our biggest response since the blog opened in July. This issue is causing concern to school leaders across the country. Everyone is experiencing UIFSM funding headaches!

With help from our guest blogger at Educatering magazine, we address your questions here on the blog, and also provide links to our expert content.

How will the money be allocated?

Although individual schools do not know what specific capital funding is available to them, they can download information from TheSchoolBus on how much their local authority is getting, as well as a terrific 3-Minute Read on the DfE’s Capital Funding. You can find that here in our Universal Free School Meals for Infants topic.

The local authorities will decide how this funding is allocated so schools should contact their LA either through their catering manager or directly, to discuss their needs and be considered for any refurbishment.

What if a school doesn’t have a catering manager?

Not every school will have a dedicated catering manager. If a school doesn’t have one, the head cook will need to take the lead. If a school doesn’t have catering manager, or a head cook, they should speak to the local authority which will have a catering manager and will be able to offer them guidance.

What if a school doesn’t have catering provision?

Schools without a dining hall or communal area, they will need to think outside the box. Schools will have a legal obligation to provide a meal to these three year groups, so they will have to find a solution and they may well be entitled to capital funding from the LA to help them fund the changes.

Collaboration is the current ‘hot topic’ in the education sector, so get talking to a neighbouring school to see if you can share resources, or perhaps you could implement family-style dining in the classroom.

Some schools might take an entirely different approach. Take a look at how one school in Hambridge, Somerset funded and built a brand new school kitchen in their local village hall, named The Hunger Stop.

What happens after the next election?

Although the capital funding is only available for 2014/15, the flat rate of £2.30 per meal taken will be ongoing. There is cross-party support for Universal Free School Meals for Infants and it has been added to the Children and Families Bill.

Remember, the £2.30 per meal is based on actual take-up by newly eligible infant pupils measured in the Schools Census from next year. If your school meals cost less than £2.30 it doesn’t matter. Schools can decide themselves what to spend the difference on.

How can a school determine how much resource is needed?

The best way to determine the numbers, and so the resource required, is to speak to parents about their intentions. Some caterers are surveying every parent in their schools to give a clearer idea. One in particular found that the average take-up is expected to be around 85% in KS1 and will remain the same for other years.

For more guidance on UIFSMs, take a look at our Universal Free School Meals for Infants topic on TheSchoolBus, and please, let us know how implementation is going over the next few months by emailing



I'm an ex-teacher with a real passion for education, politics and teaching. I am also a keen writer and blogger with strong opinions.

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