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Evaluation of the Free School Meals Pilot: Impact Report

Victoria Brown, Claire Crawford, Lorraine Dearden, Ellen Greaves, Sarah Kitchen, Colin Payne, Susan Purdon and Emily Tanner
External publication

These reports were prepared by a consortium consisting of the Nation Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Bryson Purdon Social Research.

These evaluation reports analyse the impact, delivery and value for money of a two-year pilot that tested two different approaches to extending access to free school meals (FSM). In Newham and Durham FSM were offered to all primary school pupils and in Wolverhampton FSM entitlement criteria were extended in all primary and secondary schools.

The evaluation compared the outcomes of pupils in these areas with those of similar pupils in similar areas to quantify the impact of extending entitlement to FSM on the take-up of school meals, attainment and absence from school, and pupils’ diet, health and behaviour. This analysis made use of both NPD records and data from a longitudinal survey which was carried out as part of the evaluation. Qualitative case studies were also used to explore how the pilot was set up and delivered, and to document the experiences and views of teachers, pupils and parents/carers.

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Newspaper article
From September, state-funded infant and primary schools in England will have a legal duty to offer free meals at lunchtime to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2. Claire Crawford and Ellen Greaves examine this policy.
Press release
When all primary school pupils in Newham and Durham were offered free school meals, attainment levels rose. Pupils in these areas made between 4 and 8 weeks more progress over a two year period than similar pupils in other areas.