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Universal Infant Free School Meals vs Free School Meals 

What is the difference?

For years, schools have been able to ensure this is the case through the provision of a midday meal for those who would otherwise go without. The Universal Infant Free School Meals programme (UIFSM) introduced by the coalition government went one step further, offering meals to ALL pupils between the ages of four and six, regardless of their background.

There is speculation that the scheme may end as a result of budget cuts.  However, the original Free School Meals programme (FSM) will continue unaffected regardless of the future of UIFSM.

Here are the key differences and how it can make a difference for your child:


Within the original FSM programme, children are awarded lunches based on their parents’ income, with the more disadvantaged students receiving free school meals to make sure they were able to eat at lunchtime.  For some pupils, this can be the only balanced meal they have each day, making the scheme important from both a welfare and educational perspective.

The UIFSM scheme was later launched to provide every infant pupil with free lunch, regardless of their family’s financial standing. This means there are no forms to be completed declaring wealth or employment status, taking away what some perceived as the stigma of receiving free meals by opening it up to all pupils.

Relation to Pupil Premium

The FSM scheme ties into Pupil Premium Grant allocation (PPG), with every child registered for free meals to automatically being eligible for extra funding from the government to ensure their background doesn’t disadvantage their learning in any way. For more information, visit:


UIFSM is not related to PPG in the same way. Despite infants being automatically allocated a free lunchtime meal, if parents are in receipt of qualifying benefits they must still register their child for FSM in order for the school to receive the PPG they are entitled to.

The UIFSM programme got off on ‘shaky’ start as it was perceived as perhaps not being effectively communicated to all parents, causing some schools to miss out on receiving the PPG funding for those children entitled to it.

Age Limit

As the name suggests, UIFSM are restricted to pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, whereas a student can be eligible for FSM (and PPG) at any point throughout their primary or secondary education – including their years in sixth form, or as 16-18 year olds at a further education college. Therefore, if your child is currently receiving UIFSM and you haven’t registered for FSM (if you are on certain benefits/income support), you will be paying for a school meal when you do not have to when your child starts Year 3.

What to do now

To ascertain if your child is eligible for FSM and therefore the PPG, visit the website below or phone on the following number: 01274 432772, https://www.gov.uk/apply-free-school-meals                     


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