Help with education costs

Free school meals

If your child is registered at a maintained school, your local education authority must provide a free midday meal if you claim certain benefits. These include Income Support, income-based Job Seekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit (guarantee credit) and child tax credit (and you are not eligible for working tax credit) with a taxable income below £16,190 (£16,105 in Scotland).

In Scotland and Northern Ireland you also qualify if you get working tax credit - but only so long as your taxable income is less than £6,420 in Scotland or £16,190 in Northern Ireland.

If you get Universal Credit, your entitlement to free school meals will depend on your earnings and where in the UK you live. If you are part of a couple then joint earnings are counted.

  • England and Wales - annual net earnings must be no more than £7,400.
  • Scotland - net earnings must be no more than £610 in the month before you qualify.
  • Northern Ireland - annual net earnings must be no more than £14,000.

Even if you do not receive any of the benefits mentioned above, you are still entitled to free school meals for any child who:

  • Is in reception, Year 1 or Year 2 in England or Wales.
  • Is in the first three years of primary school in Scotland, or is receiving free early learnings and childcare or at some point since they turned two has been looked after or had a Kinship Care Order or had a Guardianship Order.
  • Has special education needs and requires a special diet in Northern Ireland.

Contact your local authority for more information about free school meals.

School uniforms

Local authorities have discretion to help with the cost of school clothing for pupils in maintained schools. The rules vary from area to area so you'll need to ask for education authority about the help available in your area.

In Wales, a grant for uniforms is available to pupils who are eligible for free school meals or who are looked after by their local authority and who are either:

  • Starting reception class in primary school
  • Entering Year 7 in secondary school
  • Aged 4 or 11 and in a special school, special needs resource base or pupil referral unit, and who are also eligible for free school meals.

School transport

Local authorities may provide transport or help with the costs for eligible children and young people. Find out more about school transport.

Visiting a child at a special school

Education authorities have discretion to pay some or all of the fares of parents visiting children at a special school a long way from home.

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) - Wales and Scotland

A weekly payment for 16-18 year olds (and some 19 year olds) who stay on at school/college or who undertake certain types of unwaged training.

The amount awarded depends on parental income.

16-19 bursary - England only

There are two types of bursary. The first is a discretionary bursary for which any young person can apply. However, whether you receive a payment is at the discretion of your school or college.

There is also a vulnerable student bursary of £1,200 per year for certain groups, including disabled students who receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and who also get either Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance. This may be paid in kind rather than in cash.

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