Coeliac disease, Schools and the law

Depending on where you live in the UK, the rules around what support you are entitled to in school may differ.

You can find out more about the entitlement to free schools meals and relevant government guidance for each of the nations below. And if you still can’t find out what you need to know, get in touch.

If a child is entitled to a free school meal, they should not be excluded because they have coeliac disease.


The Children’s and Families Act 2014 came into force in September 2014, and states that all state funded schools in England, including academies and free schools in England must make arrangements for supporting children with medical conditions . The Act also places a duty on these schools to offer a free school lunch to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2.

All children with a medical condition should have an Individual Healthcare Plan (IHCP) which should include information on the needs of the child. The IHCP is part of the statutory guidance from the Department for Education.

All schools should have policies setting out how they manage long term medical conditions.

Further information about school foods standards:

Northern Ireland

Free school meals are not universal but are available for some children depending on individual circumstances. The Education Authority in Northern Ireland has produced interim guidance for catering for special diets that can be found here. 


Since January 2015, the Scottish Government has provided free school meals for all children in primary 1 to 3 across Scotland. The Scottish Government has published guidance on supporting children and young people with healthcare needs in schools (2017).

It states:

“Parents/carers should be allowed to work in partnership with their child, the school health team and school staff to reach an agreement about how their child’s needs will be met and the school should inform parents/carers of their right to participate in the decision-making process.”


In Wales, all primary school children are entitled to a free school breakfast. The Welsh Government are committed to providing free school meals to all primary aged children by 2024, with rollout to the youngest learners beginning in September 2022 before extending to older learners over the coming year.

The support children with coeliac disease should expect in school is set out in Welsh Government statutory guidance (Supporting learners with healthcare needs 2017). It states that an Individual Health Care Plan (IHPs) is “essential where healthcare needs are complex, fluctuating, long term [p23].” Children with coeliac disease should not be excluded from any activity at school, including school meals with their peers.

British Islands

We've also produced general information for those who live in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man. Check out our schools packs here.