EPI report on the impact of Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) policy
February 2, 2018
Last week the Education Policy Institute (EPI), in collaboration with CooperGibson research, has released a report evaluating the impact of the Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) policy introduced in 2014. The UIFSM gives all children, regardless of their background, access to a free school meal in key stage (KS) one. Drawing upon data from 10 case study visits, a survey of staff in 237 schools, a survey of 508 parents, 17 interviews with catering staff and “cost proformas” from 22 schools, the researchers found that:
Parents taking up free school meals for children in KS1, has risen from 38% in 2013/14 to 80% overall in 2015/16. Small schools (under 500 pupils) and rural schools have the highest take-up rate.
Parents, on average, have saved £10 per week, and 50 minutes in time, yet schools have noted “significant costs” in delivering the UIFSM, with many having to alter the way they provide school lunches.
Although many schools have not changed their food policies as a result of UIFSMs, it has led to a general increase in the “profile of healthy eating” across schools.
A minority of the parents, school leaders and teachers surveyed reported that UIFSM had impacted upon the educational, social and health outcomes of children. However, the EPI outlined that more work needs to be done to assess the full impact of the funding on educational outcomes.
Overall, the EPI suggest that “the estimated economic resource costs of the policy are smaller than the value of financial and time savings for families, making UIFSM a potentially cost-effective educational intervention on these terms”.