23rd January 2024

What’s Cooking? A review of evidence and discussion on the Free School Meals (FSM) measure in the National Pupil Database

This report reviews and discusses the existing evidence on the evolution of the Free School Meals (FSM) measure, over the past two decades, and on its uses, including in Pupil Premium (PP). The report also explores the strengths and weaknesses of FSM and PP as measures for identifying disadvantaged pupils in research and policymaking.

This report is part of a wider project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation: ‘What has “Free School Meals” measured, and what are the implications?’ The project aims to examine accurately the experiences of different groups of children within the education system: particularly those from disadvantaged and/or marginalised groups. It is also motivated by a desire to make the best possible use of information within the National Pupil Database (NPD), a census of all pupils in state education in England.

This introductory paper provides the necessary context and grounding for the project, with conclusions and policy recommendations to be published in the final stage of this research.

You can read the report in full here.

This research project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation


The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-founder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Website: www.nuffieldfoundation.org Twitter: @NuffieldFound