School and education costs

Free school meals

There are different rules about free school meals across the UK:

  • In England, school meals are free for all children at state school in reception, year one and year two.
  • In Scotland, school meals are free for all children in primary school years one, two and three.
  • In Wales, all primary school children can have a free school breakfast.
  • In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority in your region to find out whether your child qualifies and how to apply.

In England, Scotland and Wales, school meals are free for all children whose parents or carers get certain benefits. These include:

  • Universal Credit (if you meet certain criteria)
  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or the guarantee element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (in certain cases)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on (paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).

Contact your local council to find out whether your child qualifies and how to apply. Visit:

School clothing

Many local councils give grants for school clothing to families on a low income.

In Northern Ireland, pupils are entitled to a school uniform grant if their parents or carers get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the guarantee credit of Pension Credit or Child Tax Credit (in certain cases).

In England, Scotland or Wales, contact your local council to find out what help is available in your area and how to apply for it. Visit:

In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority.

School travel costs

You may also be able to get help with school travel costs from your local school, college, council or the Education Authority in Northern Ireland. Contact them for more details.

Educational Maintenance Allowance

Educational Maintenance Allowance is only available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This allowance helps young people aged 16 to 19 stay in education. The amount is based on the income of the adults who are responsible for the young person. It will not affect any benefits the adult is claiming.

In Scotland, contact your school, college or local council. Visit mygov.scot for more information.

In Wales, call 0300 200 4050 or visit the Student Finance Wales website to download an application form.

In Northern Ireland, you can download a form from nidirect.gov.uk or collect one from your school, college or local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office.

16 to 19 bursary fund

The 16 to 19 bursary fund is only available to students in England.

Students aged 16 to 19 who might struggle with the cost of full-time education or training may be eligible for a bursary of up to £1,200 a year. It can be used for costs like equipment, lunch and transport. It is not available to people at university.

Speak to the school, college, academy or training provider about how to apply for a bursary.

Discretionary Learner Support

Some colleges, including sixth form colleges, have loans, grants or funds to help people aged 19 or over with learning costs.

In some cases, this will come from the Discretionary Learner Support scheme. The funds are prioritised for those facing financial hardship. They can be used to help with:

  • financial hardship and emergencies
  • childcare costs (if you qualify)
  • accommodation costs, for those who have to study a certain distance from home
  • essential course-related equipment, materials and field trips
  • travel costs.

Check with your college to see whether this option is available to you.

Back to Help with children's costs

Childcare costs

There is financial assistance available to help with the care and education of children and young people.

Tom's Gift

Tom’s Gift gives children who need treatment for cancer a special present in recognition of their bravery and resilience.