Section 2: Background notes
In 2012, a new Healthy Living Survey (HLS) 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, from 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 free school meals. Only meals taken at lunchtime are included; breakfast clubs are not included. The survey was conducted in the week beginning 20 February 2023.
Information on levels of free school meal registration and school meal uptake is used to monitor the impact of Scottish Government policies on reducing deprivation and promoting healthy eating, and has been used to distribute funding to local authorities. In January 2015, the Government extended free school meal eligibility to include all children in primary 1-3. This was extended again to include primary 4 in August 2021 and further extended to include primary 5 from January 2022. For the purposes of this collection, it is assumed that all P1-P3 pupils were registered for free school meals until 2020 and all P1-P5 pupils from 2022.
Related sources of data
Registrations for free school meals are collected as part of the school pupil census undertaken in September of each year. This data has been quality assured and published since the 2018 pupil census and should now be considered the primary source of data on free school meal registrations. National and local authority level data is available in the pupil census supplementary tables. School level data is available in the school level summary statistics. Details on comparability between the Healthy Living Survey and pupil census free school meals data is included in the background notes.
Data on the number of free and paid for school meals taken over a financial year is collected by the Scottish Government as part of a collection of finance data from local authorities. The data is released as background data for the local government finance statistics in the education data workbook LFR01.
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