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Summary statistics for attainment, leaver destinations and healthy living, No. 3: 2013 Edition

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5. School Meals

5.1 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 from all publicly funded schools in Scotland. However, this year the collection was rescheduled to the first week of March due to the publicity around the presence of horse meat in some school meals. This was to ensure that the data produced was as representative of a usual school day as possible. 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.

Table 9. Pupils taking school meals (free or paid for) and registered taking free school meals by sector, 2007 to 2013

2007 2008 2009 20101 20112 20123 2013
Pupils registered for free meals Total 111,321 105,024 101,953 118,963 131,254 130,477 130,585
Primary 67,523 63,519 62,058 72,791 82,772 81,096 81,364
Secondary 39,857 37,647 36,034 42,513 44,441 45,077 45,018
Special 3,941 3,858 3,861 3,659 4,041 4,304 4,203
Percentage of pupils registered for free meals Total 16.0 15.4 15.2 17.8 19.7 19.6 19.6
Primary 17.6 16.9 16.7 19.8 22.6 22.1 22.0
Secondary 13.2 12.7 12.3 14.4 15.2 15.4 15.5
Special 55.3 54.8 55.1 53.4 58.2 60.6 59.4
Pupils registered and present taking free meals Total 79,935 76,048 74,548 86,175 93,977 97,096 97,542
Primary 54,414 51,665 51,255 59,483 65,856 66,464 65,717
Secondary 21,576 21,008 19,947 23,425 24,840 26,991 28,249
Special 3,945 3,375 3,346 3,267 3,281 3,641 3,576
Percentage of registered pupils present taking free meals Total 79.7 82.7 82.2 81.5 82.3 83.6 84.2
Primary 87.1 88.6 88.8 88.4 87.6 89.0 88.4
Secondary 64.0 69.8 67.6 66.7 69.9 71.7 74.7
Special 94.6 96.1 95.8 99.0 95.1 94.7 94.7
Pupils present and taking meals (free or paid for) Total 294,921 296,243 282,980 286,632 294,849 301,820 305,062
Primary 169,231 177,606 173,832 175,803 180,791 186,081 186,271
Secondary 120,192 113,379 103,915 105,564 108,981 110,376 113,587
Special 5,498 5,258 5,233 5,265 5,077 5,363 5,204
Percentage of those present taking meals (free or paid for) Total 46.1 47.1 45.1 46.1 47.8 48.7 49.5
Primary 46.3 49.6 48.9 50.4 51.9 53.2 53.2
Secondary 44.9 42.9 39.2 39.6 41.6 41.8 43.7
Special 84.2 83.1 82.6 85.7 83.4 83.9 83.1

1 Eligibility for free school meals was extended in August 2009, see background note 3.4.1.
2 In August 2010, local initiatives increased eligibility for free school meals see background notes 3.4.3 and 3.4.4.
3 In 2012, primary school free meal registrations were affected by a reduction in the number of local authorities with local initiatives.

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

  • the passing of legislation in 2008, to enable local authorities to provide free school meals to children in primary 1-3.
  • 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 and an annual income below £6,420.

In 2013, the number of pupils registered for free school meals remained stable, increasing by 108 on the previous year to 130,585 pupils (19.6 per cent of the total school roll). The percentage of pupils present on the survey day who took a meal (free or paid for) supplied by the school increased slightly on the previous year to 49.5 per cent in 2013 (Table 9).

5.3 Statistics from this survey on the percentage of pupils registered for free school meals are also widely used as a measure of school level deprivation. However, the primary school data from 2011 onwards is not a reliable indicator of relative deprivation between local authorities due to the local free school meal initiatives for children in primary 1-3. However, in 2012 and 2013 estimates of national free school meal registrations were calculated in order to provide a reliable measure of deprivation. In 2013, an estimated 77,029 primary pupils were registered for free school meals under national eligibility criteria, equivalent to 20.8 per cent of primary pupils. See background note 3.4.5 for details.

5.4 Secondary school data is unaffected by these changes and so can continue to be used as a comparable deprivation measure.