Schools Legally Obliged to Offer Milk by 2015

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 8 min read

Memories of having warm or frozen milk (depending on the season), served in a glass bottle with a straw just after morning break, is a vivid childhood memory for many people who were at primary schools between 1946 and 1971.

Although, not everyone has fond memories of free milk at schools (the memory of the smell of curdled milk in the summer, is still enough to make some feel ill). For many, however, the thought of free milk still brings a feeling of fondness.

It perhaps explains why Margaret Thatcher wasn’t able to shrug off her label as the “milk snatcher” more than 40 years after she stopped the provision of free milk to children over seven years old.

In the new law, all schools are required to offer free milk to children receiving free school meals

Today, any mention of scrapping free milk for under 5’s is enough to make people feel outraged. So, it is expected that many parents will welcome the change that’s coming in January.

Soon milk will be back on the menu. It may not be free for all, and children have a choice to have it or not, but it’s back all the same. At the moment, not many schools in England offer milk as an alternative drink for children at primary schools.

If children want milk, they have it at home. That is soon changing. By January 1st 2015, all schools in England will be legally obliged to make low-fat milk available to pupils who want it.

What is the requirement for schools?

The exact legal statement is as follows: ‘schools that provide food and drink on the premises must ensure that lower fat or lactose reduced milk is available to those children who want it at least once a day during school hours.’

This means that in practice, schools can make milk available during mid-morning break, afternoon break or at lunchtime. Providing milk to pupils at breakfast club or after school club doesn’t meet the legal obligation, even if the club is run by the school.

Additionally, the law requires the school to offer milk that has 1.8% fat content or less.

Is the milk free?

Currently, all children under 5 years attending pre-school or day nursery are entitled to a third-of-a-pint of free milk. In the new law, all schools are required to offer free milk to children receiving free school meals.

For the rest of the children, milk will be offered at a cost. It is up to each school to decide funding allocation for milk provision.
Milk provision is only part of the revised school food standard created by the government, in its effort to help develop healthy eating habits in children. The revised food standard also includes:

  • Ban on confectioneries
  • No serving of cakes, biscuits, pastries or dessert as a snack (but they can be part of the school lunch)
  • No serving savoury crackers or breadsticks as snacks (they can only be served with dairy food or fruit and vegetables as part of school lunch)
  • Snacks are limited to nuts, seeds, fruits or vegetables without added sugar, honey, salt or fat

With the introduction of the new free school milk requirement in 2015, schools will need to be able to allocate entitlement to free school milk to any pupil currently receiving free school meal benefits.

FasTrak’s cashless catering system can take care of this, by using authentication methods such as Pin, Card, Photo Look-up or Biometric Identification to safeguard the identity of those eligible for free school meals. Whilst at the same time, managing payments from other school children not entitled to the same benefits.

Related news stories:

Telegraph: School milk must be available to all pupils, Department for Education says