Pupils at a primary school are being given bread and water for their lunch if they forget their dinner money.
Parents and students at Mount Pleasant Primary School in Shrewsbury, in the UK, where a school dinner costs $3.99 (£2.20) per day, have been warned in a newsletter that arrears exceeding $12 (£6.60) will mean the school ‘will only be able to offer bread, fruit and water to pupils’.
Children falling foul of the policy are also being seated away from other pupils to eat.
Mum Jamie-Lee Heath, whose daughter Madison attends the school, for four to 11-year-olds, said the rule was ‘shocking’ and showed ‘no compassion whatsoever to the children they see every day’.
Jamie-Lee received a text from the school just one hour before lunchtime to say $8 was owed and no dinner had been ordered for Madison.
She said Madison had accidentally left her lunch in her father’s car the day before and was given a hot meal, leaving her owing $3.99.
Madison went to school without money or lunch the following day and despite her father agreeing to pay at the end of the day because he had no cash on him, the school text Jamie-Lee who quickly managed to pay the arrears in time.
“I called up immediately and explained I would pay online straight away as I didn’t realise she had arrears or no dinner money but also asked about what she would have been given if I hadn’t managed to read the text in time,” Jamie-Lee said.
“This is when the bread, fruit and water policy was explained to me. It had been mentioned in a previous school newsletter but I must admit I hadn’t read it properly.
“To take such a sharp stance on such a small amount of money just doesn’t tie in with how I imagine schools would like to be seen.
“I also find it appalling that if indeed a parent was struggling to pay lunches for whatever reason, it is the child who would suffer.”
“I understand repeated missed payments must be frustrating to deal with, and it’s surely not the best use of school resources chasing up parents who have forgotten to pay or are struggling to pay. But they are children. It is not their fault.”
The school highlighted the policy in their June newsletter last year.
Headteacher, Mr Morris, said the school would always ensure that a child would be provided with an ‘alternative meal’ in the case of forgotten dinner money.
He added that the child would eat away from other pupils so as not to draw attention to the situation.
But Jamie-Lee recently took to Facebook to share her concerns sparking comments from other worried parents.
Mr Morris sent Jamie-Lee a letter in which he said her comments were ‘unwelcome’ and ‘unfair’.
He added: “The June newsletter of last year did not offer full clarity of what this consisted off. I can confirm that pupils would receive bread and butter as well as a selection of chilled fruit or veg from the salad bar.
“Drink options are what all pupils can select from – milk or water. In addition, the meal is not consumed alongside other children in the hall, so attention is not drawn to the child.”
A statement from the school said: “It is the parent’s responsibility to provide either a packed lunch or pay for their child’s school meals and we take utmost care to listen to and help parents and carers who may be experiencing financial difficulties so that we can ensure their child still receives a meal.
“Unfortunately, the school has also had a number of parents who persistently haven’t paid for other reasons and we have subsequently been forced to write off money owed to the school.
“This is unfair on the parents who do pay for their child’s meals.
“At no point has the school ever provided just bread and water for those who come to school with no packed lunch or dinner money, even after the parent has received reminders.
“For the children who continue to arrive at school with no meal plan in place, we will endeavour to work with the responsible adults, including those who persistently don’t pay, to find the best solution possible.”
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