What figures do we enter for school lunches taken if the school is closed on Census Day, or a class absent?

The Department for Education (DfE) offers guidance on 'unusual circumstances' that covers such eventualities - click here.
Where ‘free school meals taken’ or ‘school lunches taken’ are affected, a day and time when the situation is regarded as normal is to be substituted. You could use the next normal day, an earlier day in census week or the previous Thursday where that reflects the normal situation. Where other days or times are used, schools must record these for audit purposes.

Unusual circumstances – coronavirus (COVID-19)

Schools must provide pupil level data for pupils who are recorded on the school admission register as at census day, irrespective of whether they attend school on that day. Therefore, pupils who are absent from school on census day, whether the absence is coronavirus (COVID-19) related or for other reasons, should be counted in schools’ census returns in the usual way.

Current funding allocation through the national funding formula (NFF) and the pupil premium is calculated based on the number of pupils on roll and is not affected by pupil non-attendance on census day. 

Free school meals taken and school lunches taken

As schools are only open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, the majority of pupils will not be in attendance in schools on census day. Therefore, schools should record free school meals taken and school lunch taken as the normal situation, for example, if a pupil would normally have a school meal on a Thursday they should be recorded as such on the census.

However, any vulnerable pupils or children of critical workers who are absent for reasons other than coronavirus (COVID-19) related or who have chosen to have a packed lunch on census day should not be recorded as having taken a school lunch and any of this cohort of pupils who are free school meals eligible should not be counted in the free school meals taken figure.

The DfE appreciates that school opening restrictions could affect census returns for universal infant free school meals (UIFSM). They will confirm future funding arrangements for UIFSM separately.

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