Free School Meals

What it means to be ‘disadvantaged’

Our research looks at the effects of disadvantage on young people's educational attainment and employment outcomes and how, together with our charity partners, we can improve the life chances of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Young people from poor families are half as likely to gain essential English and maths GCSEs and go to university compared to their better-off peers. White working class boys on free school meals are the lowest performing group at GCSE.

Young people from poor families are three times less likely to be in a job or course after leaving school. They're also less likely to keep a job.

So how do we define disadvantage? At Impetus, we use ‘Ever 6 FSM’, which means young people who have been looked after, in care, or eligible for free school meals in the past six years.

So who should be entitled to free school meals? We believe that:

  1. The eligibility criteria for free school meals must identify disadvantaged young people who need extra support to succeed, to target resources like the pupil premium effectively.
  2. Giving free school meals to everyone claiming university credit would not be an effective targeting of resources.
  3. The government could do more to ensure disadvantaged young people are identified and supported.
  4. The new free school meals eligibility criteria should screen out children who are not disadvantaged.
  5. The government should ensure that the data for measuring outcomes for disadvantaged young people isn’t rendered useless by:
    1. the number of changes to the eligibility criteria for free school meals, or
    2. the fact different places are rolling over to universal credit at different times.

Read about Impetus' other policy areas including:

Find out more

A free lunch

Who should be entitled to free school meals? With the introduction of universal credit to replace several benefits, the Department for Education has recently asked this very question. This policy briefing details our response, including concerns about the quality of data in the future

March 2018

Defining disadvantage: a response to the DfE Green Paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’

What does ‘disadvantaged’ young people mean? There are different ways of measuring disadvantage – from free school meals to household income. We use ‘Ever 6 FSM’ – pupils who have been looked after, in care, or eligible for free school meals in the past six years.

October 2016

Digging deeper: why white working class boys underachieve and what can be done about it

White British boys on free school meals are the lowest performing group at GCSE. Our charities reflect on their experience with white working class boys, the barriers they face, the successful methods to reach them and whether they can be used by schools.

June 2014