A year ago I wrote about the problem of children eligible for free school meals but who haven’t registered for them. This means these children risk going without a decent meal each day and also that their school misses out on up to £1,320 each year in Pupil Premium funding to support their education. A report chaired by the Labour MP Frank Field noted that councils could use their Housing Benefit records to provide automatic registration.
I wrote urging Hammersmith and Fulham Council to do this. Cllr Caroline ffiske pursued the matter via the Children and Education Policy and Accountability Committee. I chased it up. Then chased up again. Then chased it up again. There were frustrating bureaucratic delays, reservations about data sharing, other priorities.
But I am delighted to say that automatic registration is now a reality.
The Council tells me this means that 217 pupils in 25 schools who had missed out have now been registered as a result. The extra funding for those schools as a result for the 2017/18 financial year will be £286,440.
Frank Field has written to me to say he is delighted at this “terrific news” and hopes that other local authorities will follow the example.