Autumn Term 2020/21

Free school meals: Autumn term

This is the latest dataAd Hoc Statistics

This release presents data on free school meals (FSM) as collected in the Autumn school census. The number of pupils eligible for free school meals on census day (1 October 2020) and the number of pupils who have become eligible since 23 March 2020, that is since the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced, are presented.

Data on free school meal eligibility is collected in the Autumn school census but not routinely published. As the most recent official statistics correspond to January 2020 and are prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are publishing this data to present a more timely view of free school meals in schools in England.

Official statistics on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals as reported in the Spring census are typically published annually in the National Statistics release “Schools, pupils and their characteristics” available at: 

This publication aims to fill the gap between annual publications and provide a more timely picture of how the numbers of pupils eligible for FSM has changed.

Headline facts and figures - 2020/21

  • 19.7% of pupils were eligible for free school meals at October 2020. This is an increase from 17.3% in January 2020.
  • This amounts to 1.63 million children, an increase from 1.44million in January 2020.
  • Of those 1.63 million, 302,400 have become eligible for free school meals since the first national COVID-19 lockdown was announced. Over the same period in 2019, prior to the pandemic, 208,500 children became eligible for free school meals.

Help and support