Figures obtained by Tes suggest that around 100,000 pupils are not claiming free school meals – despite being eligible – which means schools are losing out on at least £93 million year.
Experts say perceived stigma and lack of awareness are among the reasons why families do not claim free school meals (FSM) – which come with additional pupil premium funding for state schools, at current levels, of £1,320 per pupil per year (primary) and £935 per pupil (secondary).
Tes estimates that if the majority of non-claimants were of secondary school age the amount schools were losing would be closer to £93.5 million, but if the majority were primary age the figure could be nearer £132 million per year – at a time when headteachers and unions have identified a schools funding crisis.
The DfE says it has now introduced an eligibility checking system, which it says makes the checking process “as quick and straightforward as possible for schools and local authorities”. It is also giving guidance about eligibility in Jobcentres.
A recent report by the Social Mobility Commission identified perceived stigma and lack of awareness as being among the reasons why families do not claim free school meals, and said many schools were increasing awareness among parents, as well as reducing the likelihood of FSM pupils being identified by their peers, for example introducing cashless payment systems.
Social mobility commissioner Sammy Wright, who is one of the commissioners attached to education as well as a deputy head in Sunderland, said schools should receive more cash for pupils who have been on free school meals longer.
He told Tes: “We looked at one local authority in Surrey where the average time [for claiming FSM] was six months and in Middlesbrough, where the average was three and a half years. We might call that the same thing but it’s not. There’s a big difference between dad being out of work for six months and then he gets another job as a stockbroker, and the trend of long-term unemployment.”
Read the full article Schools lose £93m a year in pupil premium
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