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Summary Statistics for Attainment, Leaver Destinations and Healthy Living

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Chapter 5: School meals

  • 37.6 per cent (255,231) of pupils were registered for free school meals (37.8 per cent in 2016).
  • Of those registered for free school meals and present on the survey day 81.0 per cent took a free meal (81.5 per cent in 2016).
  • Of those pupils present on the survey day 56.9 per cent took a meal (free or paid for) supplied by the school (58.1 per cent in 2016).

In 2012, a new Healthy Living Survey was introduced which incorporated the old school meals survey and new questions on Physical Education. This is an annual survey, normally collected in February each year, of all publicly funded schools in Scotland. The school meal part of this survey collects information on the uptake of meals, both free and paid for, and registration for and uptake of free school meals. Only meals taken at lunchtime are included. Breakfast clubs are not included. The latest Healthy Living Survey was conducted in the week beginning 20 February 2017.

Information on levels of free school meal registration and school meal uptake is used to monitor the impact of Scottish Government policies around reducing the impact of deprivation and promoting healthy eating. In recent years, the Government has taken actions intended to increase free school meal uptake. These are:

  • The extension of free school meal eligibility to include all children in P1-P3 from January 2015.
  • The extension of free school meal eligibility in August 2009 to include children whose parents or carers are in receipt of both maximum child tax credit and maximum working tax credit.

For the purposes of this collection it is assumed that all P1-P3 pupils are registered for free school meals.

In 2017, 37.6 per cent of the total school roll was registered for free school meals, which is similar to the 37.8 per cent registered in 2016. The percentage of pupils present on the survey day who took a meal (free or paid for) supplied by the school decreased from 58.1 per cent in 2016 to 56.9 per cent in 2017 (Table 9a). The percentage of P1-P3 pupils present on the survey day who took a free school meal decreased from 81.7 per cent in 2016 to 81.2 per cent in 2017. The total number of P1-P3 pupils taking a free school meal decreased by 625 from 134,667 in 2016 to 134,042 in 2017 (Table 9b).

As the national criteria for free school meal eligibility are largely based on the receipt of benefits, statistics on free school meal registrations from the Healthy Living Survey have been used as a measure of deprivation. However, several factors need to be taken into account when using the statistics in this way, particularly for primary and special schools. See section 7.3.3 of the Background Notes for more information on the use of these statistics as a measure of deprivation.

Table 9a. Number and percentage of pupils taking school meals (free or paid for) and registered taking free school meals by sector, 2012 to 2017

Number
Pupils registered for free meals 2012a 2013b 2014a 2015c,d 2016 2017
Primary 81,096 81,364 77,791 213,199 212,175 212,235
Secondary 45,077 45,018 44,224 41,744 39,280 38,841
Special 4,304 4,203 4,373 4,498 3,681 4,155
Total 130,477 130,585 126,388 259,441 255,136 255,231
Pupils registered and present taking free meals
Primary 66,464 65,717 63,986 162,799 166,454 165,027
Secondary 26,991 28,249 27,739 26,264 24,811 23,911
Special 3,641 3,576 3,719 3,607 2,899 3,418
Total 97,096 97,542 95,444 192,670 194,164 192,356
Pupils present and taking meals (free or paid for)
Primary 186,081 186,271 192,666 237,404 246,821 246,162
Secondary 110,376 113,587 115,150 111,562 114,586 110,288
Special 5,363 5,204 5,206 4,875 4,511 4,375
Total 301,820 305,062 313,022 353,841 365,918 360,825
Percentage
Percentage of pupils registered for free meals 2012a 2013b 2014a 2015c,d 2016 2017
Primary 22.1 22.0 20.6 55.3 54.1 53.4
Secondary 15.4 15.5 15.5 15.0 14.2 14.1
Special 60.6 59.4 60.7 63.0 55.7 66.2
Total 19.6 19.6 18.8 38.7 37.8 37.6
Percentage of registered pupils present taking free meals
Primary 89.0 88.4 88.7 80.5 82.7 82.1
Secondary 71.7 74.7 76.6 76.4 73.9 73.4
Special 94.7 94.7 94.8 90.3 89.8 91.3
Total 83.6 84.2 85.0 80.1 81.5 81.0
Percentage of those present taking meals (free or paid for)
Primary 53.2 53.2 53.2 64.6 66.0 65.0
Secondary 41.8 43.7 44.4 44.2 45.8 44.3
Special 83.9 83.1 81.7 78.0 77.7 78.0
Total 48.7 49.5 49.8 56.5 58.1 56.9

a. In 2012 and 2014, primary school free meal registrations were affected by a reduction in the number of local authorities with local initiatives.
b. In 2013, the Healthy Living Survey was carried out in March due to publicity around the presence of horse meat in some food products.
c. On 5 January 2015, the Scottish Government launched the extension of free school meals eligibility to include all children in P1-P3.
d. Figures on percentage uptake that were originally published were amended in June 2016. See background note 7.3.3 for details.

As an alternative to using the percentage of pupils registered for free school meals as a measure of deprivation, statistics on the percentage of pupils in each school who live in the 20 per cent most deprived data zones in Scotland are now available in the school contact list: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/Datasets/contactdetails.

Table 9b. Primary pupils taking school meals (free or paid for) and registered taking

  Number
Pupils registered for free meals 2012a 2013b 2014a 2015c,d 2016 2017
P1-P3 n/a n/a n/a 172,284 172,912 173,020
P4-P7 n/a n/a n/a 40,915 39,263 39,215
Total Primary (P1-7) 81,096 81,364 77,791 213,199 212,175 212,235
Pupils registered and present taking free meals
P1-P3 n/a n/a n/a 129,674 134,667 134,042
P4-P7 n/a n/a n/a 33,125 31,787 30,985
Total Primary (P1-7) 66,464 65,717 63,986 162,799 166,454 165,027
Pupils present and taking meals (free or paid for)
P1-P3 n/a n/a n/a 129,674 134,667 134,042
P4-P7 n/a n/a n/a 107,730 112,154 112,120
Total Primary (P1-7) 186,081 186,271 192,666 237,404 246,821 246,162
  Percentage
Pupils registered for free meals 2012a 2013b 2014a 2015c,d 2016 2017
P1-P3 n/a n/a n/a 100.0 100.0 100.0
P4-P7 n/a n/a n/a 19.2 17.9 17.5
Total Primary (P1-7) 22.1 22.0 20.6 55.3 54.1 53.4
Pupils registered and present taking free meals
P1-P3 n/a n/a n/a 78.9 81.7 81.2
P4-P7 n/a n/a n/a 87.5 87.3 86.2
Total Primary (P1-7) 89.0 88.4 88.7 80.5 82.7 82.1
Pupils present and taking meals (free or paid for)
P1-P3 n/a n/a n/a 78.9 81.7 81.2
P4-P7 n/a n/a n/a 53.1 53.7 52.4
Total Primary (P1-7) 53.2 53.2 53.2 64.6 66.0 65.0

a. In 2012 and 2014, primary school free meal registrations were affected by a reduction in the number of local authorities with local initiatives.
b. In 2013, the Healthy Living Survey was carried out in March due to publicity around the presence of horse meat in some food products.
c. On 5 January 2015, the Scottish Government launched the extension of free school meals eligibility to include all children in P1-P3.
d. Figures on percentage uptake that were originally published were amended in June 2016. See background note 7.3.3 for details.

School meals data by urban rural classification, size of school and local authority are available in the supplementary tables. A list of the tables available is in the background notes section. School level information on school meals is also available. This can be found at the following address: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/SchoolMealsDatasets