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Lunch payments overdue: children put in lunch isolation

Discussion in 'Education news' started by monicabilongame, Jul 29, 2016.

  1. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

  2. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    horrible position, one of the reasons for teachers to not be involved in collecting or dealing with payments in any way. What age are they? Younger ones get an auto free meal now.
    not sure what would be the correct behaviour where a parent is not providing a lunch pr paying for what their child has. ignoring it and giving out free food every day cannot be the correct decision either.
    hhhh and pepper5 like this.
  3. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Most primary schools have had their internal debates about how to deal with parents who won't pay for school meals. How to balance duty of care to child with your duty to make sure parents pay what they owe. The comments below the article - some of which are more than a touch deranged ('head would need a 24 hour armed guard if they did that to my child') - all seem to assume the parents are too poor to pay, although no-one asks why if the parents are that poor they don't apply for FSM. Our experience from knowing our families well was that non-payment was nearly always because of "won't pay" rather than "can't pay". Why should money that ought to be spent on teachers and resources be diverted to pay for meals for parents who could pay but won't? And if you let one parent get away with it how many more will follow suit?

    Our policy was to give the child a basic sandwich + glass of water meal but we didn't isolate them.

    Another school in LA the head said bluntly to one parent that their child would get no meal unless they paid, parent must send in packed lunch, and if they sent child to school with no lunch head would refer them to social services as a child protection concern
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
    claire_jean_, wanet, colpee and 2 others like this.
  4. redlamp2

    redlamp2 Occasional commenter

    The correct behaviour (of all other options are exhausted) would be to pursue the non payment via the small claims court.

    Treating children like this is despicable. Literally held to ransom.
    les25paul and pepper5 like this.
  5. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I think, in the end, that is the best policy.
    phlogiston and harsh-but-fair like this.
  6. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    The school in question is a free school and thus not answerable to the LEA. Does this mean that their leadership and admin team Is free to detain children for their parents' inability to pay for lunch? A free school where I live sent solicitors' letters to parents who complained about an unqualified teacher not having marked the books.
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    An LA school wouldn't be answerable to the LA for how it ran school meals either. I know Gove and his lot keep saying 'Council's run LA schools' but they don't. It's 25 years since Councils ran schools.

    I'm sure the school isn't detaining the child, they'd be delighted for the parents to take the child home for lunch.

    And who says the parents are unable to pay? Not the mother this story is about, she doesn't say anything about not being able to afford it. Could pay, won't pay would be more likely in my school (and we're in one of the poorest areas of the country).
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Basic meal, invoiced appropriately seems fine to me. It might be judicious to serve the child somewhere else from their peers "to avoid the stigma of being publicly singled out", but I would feel inclined to let the child play with friends for the rest of the lunch break. For starters it avoids the need for someone to supervise the child..
  9. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    It can can take weeks before the benefits centre processes a claim and pays, even if they deem you are entitled. It appears the parent had lost her job.
    The head is quoted as saying that she was doing this to make parents change their ways.
    We've all encountered kids whose parents are having a hard time and who aren't handling it well.
    When you're out of work, broke and worried you should be able to ask the school to cut you a bit of slack, not punish your child.
    Perhaps the parent did handle it badly but the school has not really fulfilled the in loco parentis role.
  10. Orkrider2

    Orkrider2 Star commenter

    From the school's website:
    We are a vegetarian school. All pupils attend family lunch daily. There are no exceptions. There are no packed lunches at Michaela. No food or drink is to be brought on to the school site. This includes all sweets, snacks, drinks and chewing gum. The school provides morning and afternoon snacks for all pupils as well as a two course lunch.

    Pupils sit at allocated tables of seven for lunch. Each table is led by an adult or a pupil who has been awarded the status of “Future Leader”. Each pupil has their own specified role at lunch. Each day a topic for discussion is set. Each day we celebrate acts of kindness as a whole school community. At the end of family lunch pupils have around thirty minutes in which they may do homework or spend some time socialising in the school yard.

    At all times pupils are closely supervised by adults. This helps foster our central message that pupils should be kind to others. This also helps ensure that bullying does not occur.

    Family lunch is squarely focussed upon building strong common values and a sense of school community. We do not operate prayer rooms and we do not allow pupils of any faith to pray on the school site. We pride ourselves on being a secular school with strong morals at our core. Family lunch, where all pupils come together for the duration, is a key part of this moral focus. We rigorously endeavour to avoid any potential for sectarianism in school. Instead we actively create systems which ensure all pupils, regardless of race or religion, mix fully throughout the school day.

    Payments for Lunch & Snacks

    As of May 2015 the cost of lunch and daily snacks is £2.50 per day, £12.50 per week, £75.00 per 6 week period. Families must pay for lunch and snacks in half-termly instalments to reach the school by the start of each new half term.

    If families have a free school meal application pending they must still pay for lunch and snacks in advance. If the free school meal application is agreed, overpayment will be reimbursed.

    Apart from the fact that it seems unfair to force parents to pay for school meals, where a packed lunch could be made at home for a less than £2.50 a day, the emphasis on lunchtime being a 'family lunch' where 'all pupils come together for the duration', their policy of isolating children of parents who can't (or possibly won't) pay comes over as an even more calculated form of emotional blackmail.

    Then there's this response from the headteacher:
    “The letter from Barry Smith…was sent in an attempt to encourage mum to change her ways and support her son by paying for his food,” Birbalsingh said. “The vast majority of secondary schools use isolation to discipline children.”

    Disciplining the children for their parents 'ways', which may or may not be the fact that they have found themselves as a single, unemployed parent. There's something distinctly IDS-ish about this idea that we can simply punish people (or their children) until they give up this nasty habit of not being able to afford things and become wealthy like normal people.

    In 2010 Birbalsingh was criticised for describing the British education system as “fundamentally broken” and “blinded by leftist ideology” at a Conservative conference.

    I think she's pinned her colours to the mast to be honest.
  11. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    Unless you're the isolated child I guess.
    Mrsmumbles and minnie me like this.
  12. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    Clearly no idea what 'having no money' means.
    vannie likes this.
  13. Orkrider2

    Orkrider2 Star commenter

    Family lunch is squarely focussed upon building strong common values and a sense of school community. We do not operate prayer rooms and we do not allow pupils of any faith to pray on the school site. We pride ourselves on being a secular school with strong morals at our core. Family lunch, where all pupils come together for the duration, is a key part of this moral focus. We rigorously endeavour to avoid any potential for sectarianism in school. Instead we actively create systems which ensure all pupils, regardless of race or religion, mix fully throughout the school day.

    So they ensure all pupils mix together, regardless of race or religion, but not, apparently, regardless of wealth.
  14. brighton56

    brighton56 Occasional commenter

    Whilst not condoning the school's actions, there seems to be a growing problem with some of today's parents/guardians and their reluctance to pay for school trips and lunches. In my experience, and it is just that I refer to, a lot of parents treat schools as a free service in which everything should be a 'God-given right'. Parents feel it is fine not to pay for trips, for school lunches or library books that have been lost. Would this be tolerated in any other form of business?

    School's are not legally allowed to charge for school trips if they are to enrich the day-to-day curriculum, yet this terminology of 'voluntary contribution' means more parents refuse to pay. We have to cancel trips now at my school because we do not have the budget to continue to compensate for every trip. I am not talking about extravagant ski trips - more like a termly trip to a museum with a donation of £5-£10 asked.

    With regards to lunch, parents need to take responsibility for feeding their children and not schools. I appreciate the circumstances at the school above is different, but I am annoyed at how many parents ramp up the debt thinking the school will pay.

    Please don't get me wrong, I am not aiming this at those who face genuine financial hardship but I believe a lot of parents that refuse to pay do so for other reasons. It is time that people treat schools like any other service/business and pay for extra goods/services. Please also note that I am not saying we should punish the child.
  15. Camokidmommy

    Camokidmommy Established commenter

    Hideous way to treat a child. They appear to say one thing but do another.

    Whilst I agree that parents should pay where they can, if I have read the details correctly, they expect parents to pay until benefits come through. I am sure some parents would find this very difficult. I also think that some parents would evade payment.

    Either way, it is not the child's fault and they should not be penalised.
    JosieWhitehead, pepper5 and minnie me like this.
  16. redlamp2

    redlamp2 Occasional commenter

    We have two children. Neither has been on any extravagant trips, just the usual: swimming, museums, maths quizzes, sports competitions etc. etc. We calculated the costs of those "voluntary contributions" to be over £3,000 during their time at primary school.

    You don't need to be on the breadline for these costs to place a strain, particularly for those NOT receiving benefits. This is not something that seems to be given a great deal of consideration by schools.
    MamaPyjama likes this.
  17. brighton56

    brighton56 Occasional commenter

    Being a parent myself, I don't disagree with your comment and I appreciate school can be expensive. £3000 however is ludicrous and not what an average primary school would charge in terms of voluntary contributions. Say you were asked to pay for £10, no wait, say £20 per trip per term per child. This would equate to £60 per year and spread over seven years would be £420. Maybe whack on a £300 residential for year 6 and this comes to £720. Maybe now add £50 per year for non-school uniform days, themed days and anything extra...£1070. Double that and you get £2140 and I think I have been over generous in how much an average school would charge parents.

    Schools do not have to charge for swimming - that is their choice and I'm not sure why you would pay for maths quizzes or sporting events - unless they're after school events. Extra-curricular is not the same as voluntary contributions for a curriculum based trip or experience. Whilst I appreciate different schools will have different policies, it is not fair to assume your child's school would be average.

    Coming back to my argument, parents should pay for school lunches if they wish their child to have them (I know a different case in the article here) and parents should be willing to make a financial contribution to the school trips if they are not experiencing financial hardship. By school trips I mean the ones for all children during curriculum time, not the fancy extras.
    Rott Weiler likes this.
  18. aspen_1

    aspen_1 New commenter

    I think the line about not permitting prayer is offensive.
  19. redlamp2

    redlamp2 Occasional commenter

    In fact they attended two different schools in two different authorities and the number and costs of trips and additional activities were very similar.

    For one child there were residentials in years 2, 4,5 & 6! The other only got the two. He wasn't in the year that had a number of parents complaining so much they threatened to organise a residential themselves if the school didn't. Bizarrely and despite the reluctance of staff (I was one) the school relented to appease the few.

    The costs were not for maths quizzes and sporting events. They were the costs of transport to get to the events they were fortunate enough to be 'representing' the school at. Likewise for swimming (these are rural schools).

    Regardless of whether the schools are 'average', the point remains that all these additional costs are rarely given proper consideration in terms of the impact they have. The loudest and most demanding voices tend to be those with no need to be concerned by cost either because they're loaded, or because their benefits will cover them.

    For the particular school in this case the debates a little different given that it's a free school. And what parent in their right mind would send their children to a school that won't even serve a bacon sandwich?!
  20. redlamp2

    redlamp2 Occasional commenter

    I find it offensive that so many schools still have a religious bias.

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