Record number of pupils across the East Riding on free school meals, new figures show

More the pupils in East Yorkshire are receiving free school meals than ever before, figures show, as campaigners argue the Government should widen the eligibility criteria amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

By Patrick Jack (Data Reporter)
Friday, 15th July 2022, 3:03 pm
Department for Education figures show 8,600 children in the East Riding of Yorkshire were eligible for free school meals in January – 18.7% of all state school pupils in the area. Photo: PA Images
Department for Education figures show 8,600 children in the East Riding of Yorkshire were eligible for free school meals in January – 18.7% of all state school pupils in the area. Photo: PA Images

And the Labour party claims that working families nationwide are suffering while the Government is distracted by the Conservative leadership election.

Department for Education figures show 8,600 children in the East Riding were eligible for free school meals in January – 18.7% of all state school pupils in the area.

This was up from 17% the year before, and the highest proportion since comparable records began in 2015-16.

In state funded special schools, the rate was 38.1% in 2021-22 – the highest of all types of state education which had at least 100 pupils.

This was compared to 18.4% in secondary schools.

Across England, 22.5% of pupils (around 1.9 million children) are currently eligible for free school meals – up from 20.8%, and also a record high.

The Association of School and College Leaders said it is “shocking” that one of the world’s wealthiest economies saw such a steep rise in the number of youngsters on free school meals this year.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the ASCL, added: “Even more shocking is the fact that current eligibility does not even capture all the children who need help.

“Free school meal eligibility now applies to 22.5% of pupils, but we know that the level of child poverty is about 30%.”

New research conducted by Loughborough University on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition reveals 29% of English children were living in relative poverty in 2020-21, though this was down from 30% the year before and first fall in a decade.

The ECPC said it is likely due to Government measures during the pandemic, such as temporarily increasing universal credit by £20 a week.

In the East Riding, 26.6% of youngsters aged 15 and under were living in households with less than 60% of the national median household income after housing costs – down from 27% in 2019-20.

The DfE figures also show that white pupils with Traveller of Irish heritage ethnicity were the most likely to get free school meals across England – 63% of all of those in state schools.

Ethnicities with fewer than 100 pupils have been removed.

A Government spokeswoman said it is providing more than £37 billion to help families with rising costs, and will continue to keep eligibility under review.