Financial Help with School Costs
Costs associated with sending your children to school can prove to be very expensive. If you're on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits you may be eligible to receive assistance with the following:
- Free school meals
- Help with school uniform costs
- Help with activities
- Help with home to school transport
- Free school transport
- School transport if your child has special educational needs and disabilities
Free School Meals
In addition to free school meals, your child may be entitled to help with other school costs if you are on a low income. You should speak to your local authority to see what other help you are able to receive.
To qualify for free school meals you will need to be in receipt of one of the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credit - but not applicable if your in receipt of Working Tax Credit as well, and your gross annual income is £16,190 or above
- Working Tax Credit run-on (this is the period after your Working Tax Credit entitlement ends)
- Universal Credit if your claim started before 1 April 2018 or you earn less than £7,400 a year net (not including benefits)
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit - the Guarantee Credit part only
You can also make an application if you have requested asylum and you are receiving asylum support whilst awaiting a decision.
If your child is in reception class, year 1 or year 2, they will automatically be entitled to free school meals.
Making an application
You can complete an application and apply to your local education authority (LEA). Visit Find your local council to locate your local LEA.
Help with special needs and disabilities
Your LEA will have their own selection criteria and rules so therefore you should contact them direct or visit their website to see what you may be able to apply for. For example, you may receive assistance with the cost of uniforms or for your child to learn a musical instrument.
Some schemes follow the same eligibility criteria as for free school meals (as above).
If you are seeking school transport it is best to apply as soon as your child has a school place, you won't automatically be provided with school transport. Your child might be attending a maintained special school, if so, you should ask your LEA if they can help with your travel costs so you are able to visit.
Activities and Educational Visits
Your child's school can sometimes request a voluntary payment for extra curricular activities and educational visits. Although your child will not be prevented from attending, these may be cancelled if not enough money has been collected in to fund the visit or activity.
Applying for help with transport to and from school
If you have a child or children between the ages of 5 to 16, your LEA might be able to provide free or lower cost transport. They will take into account whether:
- Your child is able to walk there
- You live near the school
If you're on a low income, and you don't live near a school, your child could receive assistance if:
- Your child's primary school is more than 2 miles away
- Your child's secondary school is between 2 and 15 miles away
If you're not on a low income, your child could still be entitled to help if:
- Your child is under 8 and their school's more than 2 miles away
- Your child is between 8 and 16 and their school's more than 3 miles away
If there's a school closer to your home that your child could get to more easily, your LEA doesn't have to pay for travel costs.
Your child has a disability or special educational needs
If your child is unable to walk to school because of their special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), they should be eligible for free school transport, visit the Gov.UK postcode checker web page for more information.
If your child is unable to walk to school because it's dangerous because they need to cross major roads, for example, then they may also be eligible for help with transport costs.
If your child is older and in a sixth form or is an apprentice, the help available will depend on where you live. Visit Gov.UK for information about free transport for people over 16 and in full-time education or training.
Appeals and Further Advice
School PTA and Charities
Your child's school will provide you with details of any schemes or initiatives they have to assist you with your child's financial costs. Information can normally be obtained from their website or the school office. For example your schools parent teacher association (PTA) could assist with any expenses, such as educational trips or the cost of uniforms.
You can also use the grant and charitable assistance finder on the turn2us website for assistance if you are not eligible for help from your LEA. Visit www.turn2us.org.uk. Alternatively visit the Educational Trusts' Forum website. Visit http://educational-grants.org/