School milk and meals - background

Background information about school milk and meals including legislation, policy, the position in relation to nurseries and free school meals.


Articles 58 and 59 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986, as amended, require the Education Authority (EA) and Boards of Governors (BoGs) of Voluntary Grammar Schools (VGS) and Grant Maintained Integrated Schools (GMIS) to provide milk, meals and other refreshments and the facilities to consume them, in accordance with arrangements approved by the Department.


The Department is responsible for formulating and developing policy and the necessary financial arrangements.  The day-to-day operation of the school meals service is a matter for the EA in the controlled and maintained sectors and individual VGS and GMIS.

The EA and BoGs of VGS and GMIS provide the service in line with the Approved Arrangements for the Provision of Milk, Meals and Related Facilities made under Articles 58 and 59.  

There are separate Arrangements for the:

  • Education Authority 
  • Voluntary Grammar Schools
  • Grant Maintained Integrated Schools

Further information on school food can be found on the EA website.

Position in relation to nurseries

The Department wrote to the Education and Library Boards (ELBs), VGS and GMIS in November 2010 confirming the position in relation to the provision of school meals in nursery schools and nursery units.  The letters can be viewed using the following links:

Free school meals

Certain categories of pupils are entitled to free school meals.  Details of the qualifying criteria are contained in paragraph 6 of the Arrangements.  For the purposes of paragraph 6.iii. of the Arrangements the maximum taxable income is currently £16,190.  

The EA is responsible for administering the award of free school meals.

Further information on how to apply for free school meals can be found on nidirect.

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