Online Free School Meals: maximising support for those most in need
Making sure that children are energised and fuelled for their day is a key consideration for everyone involved in their development, whether that be at home or during their time at school.
However, ensuring that they receive the nourishment they need can be among the greatest challenges, both logistically and financially, with household budgets continually stretched.
Recent changes to the benefits system have raised question marks over the existing free school meals programme, but the government’s announcement in the last couple of weeks looks to have secured funding to feed an additional 50,000 children*.
And while that is undoubtedly great news, making sure that the additional funding reaches those most in need presents a challenge to schools everywhere, with many pupils potentially missing out on their entitled support as a result of not knowing what they have access to.
In addition, don’t forget the added incentive for schools in the shape of pupil premium payments, which can be worth between £900 and £1,300 per pupil, for six years.
Ensuring eligibility and increasing uptake
Often the uptake for available funding in schools is low, with many parents unaware of the support that’s available to them and how to access it. In addition the universal free school meal entitlement for infant aged pupils can make it even harder to encourage their parents to register.
The same applies for schools and it can be a challenge to stay on top of pupil entitlements. This becomes even more relevant in the context of completing regular census data and making sure that the school receives all the funding it is entitled to for levelling the playing field in favour of eligible pupils.
Government figures suggest that up to 200,000 pupils entitled to free school meals are currently not claiming them*, which seems incredible on the surface.
With sometimes complex routes to application and validation, some parents may feel that the process is daunting, not to mention that some may allow a sense of pride to stand in the way of applying.
Online solution: faster, easier and greater awareness
The Online Free School Meals (OFSM) platform helps to remove or reduce much of this complexity. Parents or carers complete a simple online form, which takes minutes rather than days or weeks, and removes much of the stigma that surrounds making a face-to-face application. This then triggers an automated service which checks eligibility and ensures that the right pupils receive the right support.
To date, OFSM has helped more than 150,000 children receive support and over 2,500 schools are currently using the system, so we know it works and is rapidly becoming an essential service.
Streamlined, online solutions like OFSM are something of a win-win situation for all involved, providing a secure, confidential application process for parents and pupils while also reducing much of the administration needed for schools.
Time to take action and step up support
With January’s government school census approaching fast, now is the perfect time to look into ways of reducing the burden created by this requirement and to maximise your pupil premium income funding.
OFSM could play a key role in doing exactly that – cutting down on piles of paperwork and increasing uptake of this crucial funding pot to help your pupils in the greatest need.