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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Back to school - what you need to know

  • Published: Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The end of the summer holidays is fast approaching and kids in England and Wales will soon be going back to school. Find out how to apply for free school meals, get help with paying for school uniforms and find information on school transport and Ofsted reports.

Swine flu and schools

For the most part, schools will be opening as normal, so you should send your children to school.

For more information on swine flu and schools, follow the link below.

Free school meals

Parents don't have to pay for school lunches if they receive any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue & Customs) that does not exceed £16,040
  • Working Tax Credit during the four-week period immediately after their employment finishes or after they start to work less than 16 hours per week

Children who receive Income Support or income-based Job Seeker's Allowance in their own right qualify as well.

Help with school uniform costs

Apply for help with the cost of school uniform

If you are on benefits or a low income, you could be entitled to help with the cost of school uniform.

This could be in the form of clothing grants or vouchers from your local authority.

To find out if your local authority offers help with the cost of school uniforms, follow the link below.

Getting to school

Apply for home to school travel support

If your child lives a distance away from their school, they may be entitled to free school transport.

Otherwise there are a number of ways to make sure tey get to school safely, such as 'walking buses' and 'bike trains'.

Free school transport

Local authorities have to provide transport where they feel it necessary to make sure that a child goes to school. If transport is necessary, then it must be provided free of charge.

In most cases, it's up to the local authority to decide what transport is necessary. However, your child will be automatically entitled to free transport if both of the following apply:

  • they are between five and 16 years old
  • they go to the nearest suitable school, and the school is further away than the 'statutory walking distance' – two miles for under eights, or three miles for pupils aged eight and over 

Search for safe routes to school in your area

Walking and cycling safely to school

'Walking buses' and 'bike trains' help children walk or cycle to school safely with adult supervision. They are a sustainable alternative to transport by car, bus or train, and help keep children healthy.

The Department for Transport has also funded the 'Bikeability' programme - the new national cycle training scheme which is being introduced in England.

School term dates

Find the school term dates for your child's school

The dates for state school terms and holidays are decided by the local authority or the governing body of the school.

If your child goes to an independent school, the school itself sets term dates.

To find out term dates for your child’s school, follow the link below and eneter the postcode of your child’s school. This will take you the website of the relevant local authority.

Finding the right school – Ofsted reports and league tables

When choosing a school for your child, league tables and Ofsted reports are an excellent source of information. They may not tell you everything you need to know, but can be useful when making a shortlist.

Many schools also print their own prospectus for parents with detailed information about the school.

Follow the 'Find schools' link, and then type in your postcode to get contact details for schools near your home, including links to schools' websites.

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