Find out what help your family may be entitled to with back to school costs

Help with back to school costs

While we are still enjoying the summer holidays, parents are already planning for back to school, including buying new school uniforms and other supplies. It is an expensive time for families, but there may be help available with back to school costs.

School meals

The Education Authority oversees the free school meals scheme for primary and secondary school pupils. Eligibility depends on parents receiving specific benefits and, in some cases, on household income. Assistance is also available for children with a statement of special educational needs and specific dietary requirements.

School uniforms

The Education Authority also oversees the school uniform grant. Eligibility criteria is similar to the free school meals scheme. The school uniform grant has remained the same for the academic year 2023/24. Eligible households remain entitled to a grant of between £42.90 and £93.60, per school-aged child, per academic year.

Transport costs to school

The Education Authority is required to provide transport to and from school for any pupils who meet specific criteria. Support is made available where there is no suitable school within a legal walking or qualifying distance from the pupil’s home, or where the pupil has not secured a place in an appropriate school within that distance. A child with additional educational needs or disabilities may also receive assistance with transport.

How to apply

Free school meals and school uniform grant applications can be made online. Once submitted the application can take around four weeks to process.

Home to school transport assistance applications can also now be made online. The Education Authority website provides an online Eligibility Checker to help parents find out if their child will qualify, prior to completing the formal application.

For further information on free school meals, school uniform grants and home to school transport, including how to apply, visit the Education Authority website:

Cost of childcare

Many families still require ‘wraparound’ childcare during school term-time. Now is the time to find out what financial support is available – most working families are entitled to help with their registered childcare costs, whether through Tax Credits, Childcare Vouchers, Universal Credit or Tax-Free Childcare.

Personalised advice and guidance

Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service provides free, impartial and confidential advice to parents on the financial support their family is entitled to and can help families work out if they are eligible for support with back to school costs. Contact us on 028 9267 8200 or email