The government has promised colleges £73 in extra funding per student to ensure they can provide learners with food support over the summer.
The funding, the government said, translated into a free meals rate of £2.41 for five meals each week over the six-week summer holiday period.
“Due to the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus outbreak, we are providing additional funding to enable FE institutions to continue to provide meals over the 2020 summer holiday to students eligible for free meals in FE in the 2019 to 2020 academic year.
“Unlike other free meals in FE funding, this does not apply to 16 to 19 schools and academies who are able to access the free school meals national voucher scheme. Institutions must continue to provide meals using their existing arrangements over the summer for students who were eligible and claiming for free meals in FE during the summer term,” the government guidance, published today, said.
The funding had been calculated using the number of fundable free meals students from 2019 to 2020 academic year allocations, and institutions must sign and return contract variations by 31 July to receive the additional funding in their August payment.
Last month, Downing Street announced a £120m Covid Summer Food Fund, extending its free school vouchers scheme over the summer holidays in a major U-turn following pressure from England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.
In April, the government announced colleges could apply for additional funding to provide meals to students during the coronavirus pandemic and to be part of the national voucher scheme also introduced in schools.
However, the guidance said institutions had to submit a business case to be considered. It added 16 to 19 providers with free meals in FE allocation would be able to apply to the national voucher scheme, “with the value of any vouchers claimed being charged to your FE meals and/or 16 to 19 discretionary bursary allocations”.
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “The education secretary talked yesterday about his plans to put further education at the heart of the post-16 education system. One practical way of doing this would be to address the range of inequalities that colleges face compared to other providers of 16 to 18 education.
"Free school meals is a classic example. Schools (including sixth form and 16-19 academies) knew on 17 June that they could continue to make free meal payments to students over the summer holidays. It has taken almost a month to extend this to sixth-form students studying in colleges, with the inevitable catch that they will be funded at a lower rate than sixth-form students studying in schools.
"If the department has evidence that college students require less food than school students, we would be interested to see it. If not, we would suggest that young people should not be disadvantaged based on where they choose to study. We are grateful to our All Party Parliamentary Group for pursuing this issue with such vigour, but it really isn’t something that should have required a campaign to put right.”