Coping with free schools meals from September

By Toby Lester | 27th August 2014 | 2 min read

From September, big changes will be made to school food, with the Department of Education transforming who gets free meals, what children eat and how they learn about food.

Every pupil in reception, year 1 and 2 will be eligible for free school meals and cooking is back on the curriculum, so children will understand more about the food they eat and how to prepare it.

Improved food standards have been designed to make it easier for school cooks to create “imaginative, flexible and healthy menus”, meaning children will get the nutrition they need, at lunch and break-times.

The Department of Education say, “Evidence from areas already providing universal free school meals show that children eating more healthily actually perform better in the classroom. Schools have reported better behaviour and a nicer atmosphere as a result of pupils eating together every day, so it’s great for children’s social skills too.”

But will free school meals mean further work for your admin staff, who will have to cope with an increase of meal selection forms coming into school and chasing replies from parents where forms have gone missing?

Quainton Primary School in Buckinghamshire, were worried about all the extra work free school meals could bring. School Bursar Sarah Collier told us, “We have always had to manually count meal choices on every form returned, which as you can imagine, was very time consuming. We were really nervous about going into the new academic year with a manual counting system, as this would have been even more difficult to manage.”

However, the school, and many other schools, have found the perfect solution with ParentMail’s online Dinner Booking form. Menu choices can be added to the form and then sent directly to parent’s to complete on their computer, tablet or mobile phone and return instantly. The responses are then automatically collated into a report, showing you exactly how many of each meal needed for the following week.

Previously, Quainton Primary, like many schools, would send out a printed menu and a form every week for parents to complete, but have found that now parents can complete forms on the mobile phone or computer, they’ve had an increase in responses: “We’ve really noticed an increase in the number of forms we’re getting back from parents now that they can complete them online, which means we don’t have to spend time chasing them for a response.”

Could our Forms, Permissions and Surveys app help your school from September? To arrange a free demonstration visit or leave a comment below to find out more.