Free School Meals Provision During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Many people are concerned about the impact of school closures on pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals (FSM).

The Government are encouraging schools to continue supporting eligible pupils by providing meals or food parcels through their existing food providers wherever possible.

However, it is recognised that providing meals and food parcels is not a practicable option for all schools. School leaders should have the flexibility to determine the best support for families in their communities. This is why the Department for Education launched a national scheme for schools to provide supermarket vouchers to eligible pupils, with costs covered by the DfE.

National Voucher Scheme for FSM:

The scheme enables the DfE to provide vouchers on a national scale to help ensure that the needs to those pupils who are eligible for FSM are met. The vouchers are worth £15 a week per child, which is higher than the amount schools usually receive for FSM.

The scheme is an online service for schools, allowing them to place orders on behalf of parents and carers. The school has flexibility to order in line with the needs of their eligible families, and to fit with any other support they may be providing for a family. Schools can choose from two options:

  • Firstly, schools can order ‘direct to parent’: if the school has a parent email address they can set up an order that sends an email direct to the parent/ carer, which contains a unique eCode. This allows the parent to select their preferred supermarket e-gift card, which is emailed to the parent. The parent can then use the e-gift card in the supermarket. The e-gift card can be carried on a phone or a tablet and scanned by the checkout assistant.
  • Secondly, they can order ‘direct to school’: this allows the schools to order a batch of codes that can either be emailed on to parents, or they can be turned into e-gift cards by the school and sent to the parent. The school can print and post/deliver the e-gift card, if the parent doesn’t have internet or mobile email access.

All e-gift cards are the same as other e-gift cards used in supermarkets, so there is no stigma attached to their use.

The vouchers can currently be spent in a variety of supermarkets. Initially, the scheme includes supermarkets that already have e-gift card arrangements in place with Edenred, including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, M&S and Waitrose. It has been confirmed that Aldi will be added to the list of supermarkets from the week commencing 27th April. Where families are unable to access any of these supermarkets, schools are able to buy vouchers for other retailers and the Government will refund the cost. The Government are working to add other retailers to this list as soon as possible.

So far, Endenred have indicated that over 11,000 schools have placed orders for codes under this scheme, and over £11 million worth of codes have been converted into supermarket e-gift cards by schools and families.