Free School Meals Eligibility Checking Service – privacy notice


  • Name of Service - Free School Meals Eligibility Checking Service
  • Directorate - Children, Families and Lifelong Learning
  • Date of Issue - 15 September 2022
  • Date of current version - 15 September 2022
  • Review Date - 15 September 2025


The reasons why we use your personal data

Purpose of the service

The Free School Meals Eligibility Checking service (FSM Checking Service) provides a mechanism for parents to apply for free school meals, and for schools to submit applications for free school meals on behalf of their parent cohort.

The service collects and processes information provided by applicants for the express purposes of undertaking a check for FSM eligibility – this is in support of a statutory duty to provide FSM checking services for SCC Maintained status schools.

An equivalent service is also provided to non-maintained status schools on a traded basis.

What processing of personal data is undertaken by the service?

The service involves undertaking a check via the online Eligibility Checking System (ECS), which is an online tool provided to Local Authorities by the Department for Education (DfE).

The process involves uploading information provided by the applicant (or by the school on the applicant's behalf) to the ECS, awaiting a result and then reporting back to the sender via secure email. Checks may be undertaken either individually or in batches and results are reported back to applicants in the form of a successful (eligible), or unsuccessful (ineligible) result.

Where a result is in dispute or requires further investigation, the service may use the information provided and may also request additional information and evidence in support of an application to undertake a manual check for FSM eligibility. This may involve our liaising with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ascertain an individual's benefit status as an indicator of FSM eligibility.

We will use provided contact details to inform applicants and schools of the status and results of their FSM eligibility checks. We may also use school email addresses to distribute news and updates about the FSM service, including but not limited to policy changes and changes to FSM eligibility processes and requirements. All users have the option to indicate contact preferences and may unsubscribe from any email communications if desired.

What Information do we collect?

To provide this service, we will collect and use some or all, of the information below to determine an applicant's eligibility for free school meals:

Parent or guardian

  • Date of birth of parent or guardian
  • National Insurance Number (or National Asylum Support Service Number) of parent or guardian
  • Email address
  • Full name of parent or guardian
  • Postal Address
  • Consent to check eligibility for Free School Meals / Pupil Premium, which involves a check of whether the applicant is in receipt of any of several qualifying benefits – see the government's free school meals guidance for a full list of qualifying benefits.


  • Name of child
  • Date of birth of child
  • Gender of child
  • Name of school where child is registered

How we are allowed to use your personal data

Legal obligation or public task under various UK legislation including but not limited to:

  • Education Act 2002

It is necessary to process your data in order for us to ensure that all children entitled to free school meals receive them and to ensure that schools receive additional funding known as pupil premium.

In some cases, we need to process your personal data as it is necessary for the performance of the contract, or to take steps prior to entering into a contract, to which you or your organisation are a party.

Please see Children Service privacy notice for other legislation relating to children.


Where we use consent to process your personal data, we will explain to you what we are asking you to agree to and why. If we have consent to use your personal data, you have the right to remove it at any time. If you want to remove your consent, please contact us at the following email address and we will deal with your request:

Who we share your personal data with

  • Our staff will have access to personal data which is necessary for them to do their work and to exercise our statutory and contractual duty to provide this service. Appropriate security measures are in place where we hold and process personal data, and the transfer of any personal data is done via secure email or via our secure online portal.
  • Data will need to be shared with DfE for the purpose of checking and, in some cases, HMRC or DWP as explained above.
  • In the event of a child changing school setting, details of their FSM eligibility will be transferred to the new school automatically through SCC's information management system, or as part of the common transfer file which is passed from one school to another.
  • Eligibility data at a school level (that is, not an individual child's eligibility) is shared with some other teams across the council (for example, schools finance) as this has a bearing on schools' funding.

Automated Decision Making, that is when computers make any decisions about you

In line with Surrey County Council policy, the FSM checking service does not use automated decision-making. Results of FSM eligibility are provided by the DFE's ECS tool, which uses a check against whether an applicant is in receipt of any of several qualifying benefits to determine whether they are eligible for free school meals.

Personal data being sent or processed outside of the UK & EU

We do not send or process data outside of the UK and EU.

Retention of data

Data will be retained in accordance with our countywide data retention schedule.

An application for free school meals eligibility only need be made once (and therefore the data required for us to check eligibility only needs to be provided once). If a child is eligible, under the current transitional protection arrangements related to the rollout of universal credit, this eligibility will last until the child ends the phase of education they are in at the end of March 2023. For full details, see the Government Guidance on free school meals and transitional protection arrangements.

Other information

Our core data protection obligations and commitments are set out in the Children Services privacy notice.

For further information on our privacy notices, please see information and privacy.

Subscribe to our newsletters for latest news and events.