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Support at school for low-income families

Children or students from low-income families can get extra support with school, college or university.

Low income families are families that earn under a certain amount or claim some benefits. Support includes:

  • Free school meals
  • Pupil Premium
  • Free school transport
  • School Uniforms
  • School trips
  • Help in post-16 education
  • Help at university

Here are things your child could get if your family has a low income.

Free School Meals

Free school meals in reception, year 1, and year 2

Free school meals are offered to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2 at all government-funded schools. This is known as universal infant free school meals (UIFSM).

Tell your child’s headteacher if you receive some benefits such as income support and universal credit so your child’s school can get extra funding.

Free school meals in year 3 and above

Your child can get free school meals (FSM) if you get some benefits such as universal credit, income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance.

Visit your child's school's website or contact them to apply for free school meals.

Pupil premium

If your child is considered disadvantaged, their school could get extra funding to help their education. This extra funding is called pupil premium.

A child will be considered disadvantaged if they:

  • get free school meals
  • had free school meals in the past 6 years
  • is in care, or has been in care in the past
  • has parents in the services such as the armed forces

Disadvantaged children often face challenges such as poor language and communication skills, lack of confidence and issues with attendance and punctuality.

Pupil premium funding can help schools provide:

  • extra one-to-one or group support
  • employ extra teaching assistants
  • fund trips and visits
  • run catch-up sessions

Speak to your school to register for pupil premium. If you’re a service family, tell your school because the funding will be different. This is called service pupil premium (SPP).

There is also an early years pupil premium for 3 and 4 year-olds considered disadvantaged.

Free school transport

Most children can get free school transport if:

  • their nearest school is beyond the statutory walking distance (2 or 3 miles depending on age)
  • there is no safe walking route
  • they have special educational needs or a disability (SEND) or a mobility difficulty
  • they’re from low income families

Children from low income families have extended rights to free school transport. This means extra options such as eligibility on the grounds of religion or belief.

The criteria for free school transport is different if your child is at primary or secondary school.

Primary School

Children of primary school age (4 to 11 years old) can get free school transport if they live more than 2 miles from their nearest suitable school.

Your child will also get free school transport if there is no safe walking route to their school, or your child has a special educational need or disability (SEND).

Find out more about free school travel assistance at primary school.

Secondary School

If your child is at secondary school or about to start, they could get free school transport if they’re entitled to free school meals or you get the maximum level of Working Tax Credits.

Your child will get free school transport if they either:

  • attend a school between 2 and 6 miles from their home, as long as there are not 3 or more suitable schools nearer
  • attend the nearest school for religious reasons between 2 and 15 miles away from their home

Religious reasons include having particular religious or philosophical beliefs or having none at all.

Use the free school transport tool to apply for free school transport at secondary school.

School uniforms

If you are struggling with the cost of school uniforms, first speak to your school for advice.

Buckinghamshire Council cannot help the with costs of school uniforms.

If you live in the Aylesbury area, the Aylesbury Vineyard can provide free clothing for children up to 10 years old, including school uniforms.

School trips

If your school gets pupil premium for your child, this might help to towards the cost of educational trips and visits.

If your school doesn’t get pupil premium for your child and you’re unable to afford the cost of educational trips and visits, speak to your school to see what other support could be available. The support available will be different at each school.

Help in post-16 education

Buckinghamshire College Group

The Buckinghamshire College Group offers a 16 to 18 College Support Scheme to its students to cover costs, including travel costs.

Students can apply for this support scheme if:

  • they’re 16 to 18-years-old
  • they’re in full-time or part-time further education or training
  • their family income under £45,000 per year

The support scheme may be stopped if attendance goes below 90% per week.

If you attend a different college or training provider, speak to them for advice as they might run their own support schemes.

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund for the most vulnerable

Young people aged 16 to 19 in the ‘most vulnerable groups’ can get bursaries of £1,200 to help cover travel and other costs in post 16 education or training.

A young person will be in the ‘most vulnerable groups’ if they:

  • are in care
  • have been in care, also called ‘care leavers’
  • are claiming Income Support or Universal Credit because they are financially supporting themselves or supporting themselves and dependents
  • get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment as well as Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit in their own right

Contact your school or college to find out more and apply.

If a young person doesn’t fall into the groups above but is facing financial barriers that could affect your participation, talk to your school or college about discretionary bursaries.

School or colleges can set their own eligibility criteria for discretionary bursaries. They can decide how much is paid and set conditions for students to meet such as behaviour and attendance targets.

Help at University

Students can apply for student finance to help pay for:

  • university or college tuition fees
  • living costs

Students from low-income families might get extra money through grants and scholarships. These funds are also available to students who have a disability, have children, or have been in care.

The amount of money universities offer can vary. UCAS recommend asking universities at open days what financial support they offer for students from low-income households.

To apply, first apply for student finance. Once you get a letter or email showing how much student finance you’ll get, contact the student services department at your university or college to see what extra money you could get.