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According to the Autumn school census a rising number of vulnerable children are eligible for free school meals in England.

Children attending a state-funded school are entitled to receive free school meals if their parent of carer receive any of the following benefits, including income support, income-based jobseekers allowance and universal credit.

Summary of Autumn school census:
• 19.7% of pupils were eligible for free school meals in October 2020. This is an increase from 17.3% in January 2020.
• This amounts to 1.63 million children, an increase from 1.44 million 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.

The highest rates are seen in the North East where 26.3%, or one in four pupils, are eligible for free school meals, and West Midlands where 23.3% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.

By contrast, 15.1% of pupils are eligible for free school meals in the South East, followed by 15.7% in the East of England.

(source: LACA, image: Chartwells)