Parents in Wiltshire are being encouraged to help schools claim hundreds of pounds to support their children’s education, by applying for free school meals.

Under the government’s pupil premium funding, each child registered for free school meals brings an extra £623 per year into school, which will rise to £900 from 2014.

This extra funding is for the school to support the registered pupils’ learning and is on top of the money already provided to pay for lunches.

Families whose children could be eligible for free school meals are often reluctant to register as they may worry that their children will be singled out, but many schools now have strategies in place to ensure pupils are not easily identifiable.

Currently in Wiltshire there is a 27 per cent rate of under-registration, resulting in the loss of £1,246,000 to support children’s learning each year.

As applications for free school meals must be in by early January, Wiltshire Council wants parents to apply for the meals now, or make a resolution to send in the form in the new year.

Lionel Grundy, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Parents need to know that by just registering their child, it guarantees their school an additional £623 a year for each child registered. That could fund such things as extra personal tuition in maths and English, additional in-class support, resources such as laptops and extra books.

“Pupil premium funding is set in January, so we really need parents to register now, in the knowledge this will be treated in the strictest confidence and they are helping their school gain additional funding to support their child’s learning.”

Families who believe they qualify can pick up a form from their school or by going onto the Wiltshire Council website.

You can register your child for Free School Meals if you get any of these benefits:

• 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 £16,190