School meals

also known as: School meals - free.

You can find information about school meals provided by Northumberland County Council Children can be entitled to free school meals if they or their parent receive a qualifying benefit.

School Meals

We know how important good health is and school meals can help children and young people fill up on nutritional food that will keep them going for the rest of the day.

In some Northumberland schools meals are provided by the County Council. Other schools choose to manage their own catering service.

All schools are expected to adhere to the food and nutritional based standards provided by the Government.

School meals provided by Northumberland County Council

  • Spittal
  • Tweedmouth West
  • Tweedmouth Prior Park
  • St Cuthberts RC Aided
  • The Grove
  • Seahouse First
  • Lowick
  • Scremeston
  • Norham
  • Whittingham
  • Swarland
  • Felton
  • Alnwick St Pauls RC First / Middle
  • Alnwick St Michaels
  • Pegswood
  • Ellington
  • Linton
  • Ashington central
  • St Aidens RC
  • St Benedicts RC Middle
  • Highfield Middle
  • Ovingham Middle
  • Acomb
  • Corbridge first
  • Whalton
  • Longhorsley
  • Cramlington Shanklea
  • Cramlington Hareside
  • Cramlington Eastlea
  • Cramlington Cragside
  • Hillcrest
  • Atkinson House
  • Morpeth First
  • Morpeth all Saints
  • Tritlington
  • Rothburty First
  • Bedlington Staion
  • Horton Grange
  • Newsham
  • New Delavel
  • The Dales
  • Guidepost Ringway
  • Choppington
  • Cleasewell hill
  • Pontelanfd Richard Coates
  • Belsay
  • Stamfordahm
  • Newbrough
  • Haydon Bridge Shaftoe
  • Cambois
  • Whitley Memorial
  • The Sele
  • St Marys
  • St Josephs
  • Hexham Priory
  • James Calvert Spence
  • Amble Links
  • Amble First
  • Grange View
  • Acklington
  • Broomhill
  • Red Row

All of our menus are produced in line with the Government’s new Food Standards effective from January 2015.

This ensures that we are serving a healthy nutritious menu that keeps children and young people fuelled throughout the day.

To ensure that we meet the standards we use a software system to nutritiously analyse all the ingredients we use to create our recipes, which we then use to generate our menus.

All relevant allergen information is available on request if required. Please contact your school Catering Manager in the first instance.

Alternatively please contact, School Meals Service Manager

Our current menus


School meal prices range from £1.95-£2.50 for a two course meal. Individual items are also available in middle and secondary schools.

Please check with your individual school for their prices.

Methods of Payment

Different methods of payment are available throughout the County. These include;

  • Cash
  • Card
  • Parent Pay
  • Cashless System

For more specific information about how you can pay, please contact your individual school.

We cater for a variety of special diets.

  • We will follow the Children’s School Food Trust - School Food Standards to produce a compliant 3 week cycle menu
  • We will provide every customer who wants one with a nutritionally balanced 2 course meal.
  • We will offer customers healthy choices in all that we serve.
  • We will explore ways of encouraging customers to choose a healthy diet through on-going innovation.
  • We will provide special diets where requested.
  • We use only good quality food and ingredients and continue to strive for the Food for Life catering Awards.
  • We will strive to use local produce where possible.
  • We will instruct our suppliers to only supply products that comply with the nutritional standards and Food for Life criteria.
  • We will carry out product testing on all new food items before use.
  • We will continue to consult with our customers in menu development.

Your Choice

‘Your choice’ is an initiative which has been developed for First and Primary Schools with the aim of being able to deliver a more desirable and individual menu choice to our customers.

The concept of ‘Your Choice’ is that a school will have ownership of their menu and be able to develop a menu that suits them. This will hopefully encourage more children to stay for a school lunch.

The ‘Your Choice’ menu has three main meal choices. Each individual school chooses one of the 3 main courses on offer each day for the 3 week cycle. In effect this is a standard menu. Those children on special diets will be catered for in the usual way. The choice is decided in partnership with The Unit Manager, Head Teacher and ideally the School Council or SNAG group involving the children in the decision making process.

Fuel to Go

Fuel to Go is a concept used in Middle Schools. It is a meal deal style concept which has a variety of choices including; freshly made sandwiches, jacket potatoes, pasta pots, salads, drinks, crudities and desserts.

My 5

‘My 5’ is brand new concept introducing a guided healthy packed lunch option. The packed lunch items are displayed into 5 food groups and children are allowed to pick one option from each group.

This includes:

  1. Pasta salad or sandwich
  2. Individual cheese portion/yoghurt,
  3. Orange or apple juice drink,
  4. Fresh fruit or vegetable stick pot,
  5. Mini muffin, jelly, pack of raisins or fruit pot

This concept is lower in saturated fat, salt and sugar compared to some homemade packed lunches.

Northumberland County Council prides itself on the development of our staff. We encourage and support our staff in self-development with NVQ2 Professional Cookery and CIEH level 3 Award in Supervising Food Safety.

As part of our continual development of our service we hold regular training sessions for all our unit managers three times a year, and hold an annual catering conference in the summer. We inform our staff of new initiatives within the school meal service.

When launching new initiatives we also hold road shows, where we demonstrate the initiative, involve our unit managers and other kitchen staff and also encourage the use of fresh local produce and aim for ‘homemade’ by developing their kitchen skills whenever possible.

As a catering provider, we realise the importance of working closely with the schools and encourage and support linking the curriculum and the kitchen. To this end, we provide our staff with ideas for theme days with menu ideas and recipes and promotional material. These theme days can be calendar events, such as St George’s Day, a day celebrating and exploring the cuisine of different countries or celebrating historical events such as VE day that could link directly with the curriculum.

If you are interested in working for Northumberland County Council’s catering team then please view our current vacancies by visiting

We have been awarded the Fuel for Life Bronze Catering Award. The award is a Soil Association accreditation scheme to help caterers give their customers reassurance that we are working towards greater use of fresh, seasonal, local, organic ingredients, high welfare meat and sustainable fish.

There are three tiers to the award; bronze, silver and gold.

To achieve the award we have had to demonstrate and fulfil the following criteria;

  • No prohibited additives (from a prescribed list)
  • No Hydrogenated Fats
  • No Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • At least 75% of freshly prepared dishes on our menu
  • Eggs from cage free hens
  • The meat supplied to us is Farm Assured as a minimum.
  • Our menus’ are seasonal
  • Our menus’ caterer for all dietary needs.
  • To provide encouragement for the catering staff to be involved in Food Education activities.
  • Provide continual development for the catering staff

School Meals Provided Directly by the School or another Provider

Other schools in Northumberland choose to manage their own catering service. For more details on menu’s and pricing, please contact individual schools directly.

Packed lunches

Packed lunches that are brought into school from home are often high in fat, sugar and salt.

Individual schools can introduce a Packed Lunch Policy which gives parents guidance on what to include when providing a packed lunch. Every school is different so please contact your individual school for more information.

More advice and guidance on healthy packed lunches is available here.

Information and advice

Below are some useful links to resources and information about healthy eating and school meals.

Free school meals

Free School Meals (FSM) are available to people who are classed as unemployed and receiving a qualifying benefit. However they are not available automatically.

The parent, guardian or student needs to complete an application and return it to the school or the FSM office at County Hall. An application cannot be made retrospectively, the FSM process is a set criteria and there is no appeals process.

Children who receive Income Support(IS) or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (IBJSA) in their own right are also entitled to claim free meals under the same application process.

If a child attends school or the parent/guardian resides in Northumberland the applicant can apply to Northumberland Authority for free school meals.

Refunds for free school meals are only made in exceptional circumstances. These are handled on an individual basis by the school.

How do I apply for free school meals?

You can apply either by:

  • Apply for FREE school meal online

  • over the telephone on FSM 01670 623592
  • completing a paper application form which is available from any school or FSM Office Northumberland County Council County Hall Morpeth NE61 2EF

Paper forms can be returned to the school or The FSM office. Benefit details for applications can be checked by us on receipt of the information although on some occasions the confirmation may not be found and you will be contacted with a request to provide your proof of benefit.

What do I need to qualify?

To be eligible for help you need to be in one of the following categories:

  • Receive Income Support(IS) or Income-based Job Seekers Allowance (IBJSA).
  • Receive Income Related Employment Allowance (IREA).
  • Have an entitlement to Child Tax Credit (CTC), but not Working Tax Credit (WTC) and the family's annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is not more than £16,190 for tax year 2012/2013(this figure changes on an annual basis).
  • Receive support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
  • Receive the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit.

What if I receive Working Tax Credit?

You will not be entitled to Free School Meals if you, or your partner, receive any Working Tax Credit on a regular basis.

However,where a parent is entitled to 'Working Tax Credit Run On' during the four week period immediately after their employment ceases, or after they start to work less than 16 hours per week, their children are entitled to Free School Meals.

We are unable to directly confirm this 4 week period of eligibility via our electronic system, so we must ask parents to provide a copy of their Tax Credit decision notice.

How long will the process take?

Applications are processed as quickly as possible however, at peak times forms are dealt with in order of date received, therefore the timing for a response to an application depends on the volume of forms waiting to be processing.

If the application is received before lunch the meals will be started from that day. If the application received after lunch, the meals will be started the following day. The school will be notified of your entitlement immediately by telephone or email. If applications are handed in to the school, and confirmation of benefit has been received the school can start the meals immediately.

How often do I apply?

Approved meals will run the whole of a child’s school life unless there is a change in circumstances. However all current claims for free school meals are reviewed monthly and applications will be automatically extended if we receive confirmation of benefit using our electronic system.

If your benefit results come back as ‘not found’, a letter will be sent out to you giving you two weeks to contact us or your entitlement will be cancelled.

Further proof of benefit would be required in order for the school meals to continue.

When would I not be eligible?

You are not eligible if you are in one or more of the following categories:

  • Part time pupils (children at nursery) are not entitled to free school meals. To qualify children must be receiving education before and after the lunch period.
  • Pupils whose parents receive other state benefits but not those mentioned above.
  • Pupils whose parents receive Working Tax Credit on a regular basis.
  • Pupils who are in foster care, if a child is fostered the Carer will be receiving an allowance which covers all costs for the child, including meals at home and school.

What if my circumstances change?

Schools and the FSM office should be notified immediately of any changes:

If you start work and your benefit changes/stops

  • If you change address
  • If your child changes school
  • If you change your name

Failure to notify us of a change of circumstance may affect your child's entitlement to free school meals. If your child receives free meals when they are no longer eligible, you will be required to reimburse the school any monies owed.

If you have not informed us of a change of address or you do not renew your award, your entitlement will be cancelled. You will be responsible for the payment of any meals taken and meals will not be backdated. It is your responsibility to keep us informed.

Adding a sibling to an existing claim

To add a new child to an existing claim, contact the FSM office quoting:-

  • the child's name
  • Date of Birth
  • school they will be attending
  • older siblings details

What if my child is excluded from school?

If your child has been excluded from school and is placed in an Alternative Provision, the entitlement to free school meals may be cancelled. This would be because the establishment may not have the provision to provide school meals and you may have to supply your child with a packed lunch. Please check with your child's Alternative Provision provider.

Can I claim anything else for my child?

The approval of a FSM application would entitle a child to:-

  • Free milk - in First or Special school milk at break-time will be free for the time the child is entitled to free school meals. The child's school will make the appropriate arrangements for the free milk.
  • Help with music tuition and instruments - Parents can claim a refund of £3.00 per session from the costs when 7 of the 10 classes have be attended by the student. The child's school will make the appropriate arrangements for this service.
  • Help with curriculum related residential trips or school visits - The child's school will make the appropriate arrangements for this service.