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ParentPay suggests one way of improving access to free school meals

27 Mar 2024
LACA partner ParentPay suggested one of the ways schools and caterers can help themselves and parents is to use a platform called Online Free School Meals (OFSM).

ParentPay said it was concerning as an education sector supplier to read the news that the free school meals opt-in system has resulted in 250,000 eligible children missing out on free school meals, with schools losing out on millions of essential funding via pupil premiums.

Online Free School Meals (OFSM) provides parents and caregivers with a simple form to complete. After the form is submitted OFSM automatically checks the required Government databases to determine eligibility.

The parent and school will be automatically notified if they are eligible (and OFSM will continue to check every two weeks for a change in eligibility status), allowing the pupil and parent to benefit from a free hot meal, and the school to claim full pupil premium entitlement.

A Hampshire County Council school using OFSM commented: “We think the service is wonderful, it saves us so much time and worry, and we get an answer immediately on whether the applicant can claim free school meals. It’s a must-have service.”

There are direct benefits for school caterers purchasing to deploy at scale as well:

  • Increase school meal uptake from parents who previously wouldn’t have used school meal provision.
  • Automatic report running weekly – highlighting students eligible for FSM at that point.
  • Students eligible for FSM are funded through their remaining educational phase, even if financial circumstances change.

A spokesperson for ParentPay said: “As a caterer, it could be as simple as making your school contracts aware this service exists to help all areas of the school meal industry. From caterers improving their school meal numbers, and schools benefiting from increased pupil premiums, to parents who don’t have to worry about a complicated admin process and every eligible pupil now getting a hot school meal every day.