It has almost been a year since the introduction of UIFSM (Universal Infant Free School Meals) and one side affect that some schools have experienced is a drop in the number of FSM (Free School Meal) registrations they received.
You might be asking why is this important and does it matter – surely free is free?
There is a crucial difference between the FSM and UIFSM program, since 2011 the school of any child that is entitled to a free school meal has received additional funding for that child via the Pupil Premium scheme, in 2015/16 a school receives £1,320 for every primary aged pupil and £935 for every secondary aged pupil, there is a higher rate for looked after children. In 2015/16 the total Pupil Premium allocation increased to £2.5 Billion.
One suggestion is that the unexpected drop is due to the introduction of UIFSM (which entitles every reception, year 1 and year 2 pupil to a free school meal) as this has removed the key reason many parents register their child as being eligible for FSM, which was for a free school meal. Unfortunately too many parents still feel there is a stigma attached the pupils who claim FSM.
The Pupil Premium funding is provided to schools to raise the attainment levels of disadvantaged pupils and more specifically to close the gap between them and their peers. As a governor of two primary schools I have seen the direct and positive impact the funding has had.
Schools have to publish the levels of Pupil Premium funding they receive, how this was spent and how it made a difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils on their school website.
The challenge for schools this coming academic year how to communicate the importance of Pupil Premium and the impact it can have on the child that is entitled to the additional resource.
Did the introduction of UIFSM affect the number of parents signing up for free school meals in your school and what strategies do you have in place to raise awareness amongst the parents of your new intake?
Want to find out more about the Pupil Premium policy try the links below