Parents are being charged for children to eat their own packed lunches in schools, it has been reported.
A survey carried out by the Teachers’ Union NASUWT and reported in the Times Education Supplement (TES) has found that parents of some primary and secondary school children are being asked to pay as much as £1.80 for their children to eat their homemade lunches at school.
The fees have reportedly been brought in because of squeezed budgets, with claims that the money generated is being used to pay for cleaning and supervision in lunch areas.
Patrick Roach, the NASUWT’s deputy general secretary, told TES he thought the charges were “disgraceful”.
“Now just sitting in a dining hall and unwrapping your sandwiches is considered to be an optional extra, it’s disgraceful, it’s shocking,” he said.
“Parents should be appalled in just the same way that we’re appalled.”
The union says that it expects more schools to start doing this as they struggle to cope with shrinking budgets.
A Department of Education spokesman told the TES it was “absolutely unacceptable” for schools to charge children to bring in packed lunches.”
“If schools are looking to exploit loopholes to get money out of parents we will investigate and make sure those loopholes are closed,” he added.
Children sent to school hungry
The survey also reveals that nearly three-quarters of teachers have seen pupils come to school hungry. More than a quarter of teachers said they have had to step in and provide food for children and more than half said they had seen their schools do the same.
For families without financial worries paying for their kids’ pleasure of a packed lunch may be annoying. But for families who struggle to make ends meet it’s much more than that — and it’s the children who’ll suffer the most.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT expressed her concern that “teachers and schools are being left to pick up the pieces of callous fiscal and social policies.”
“As the survey shows, poverty and homelessness take an enormous physical and emotional toll on children. They often cannot concentrate when they are in school because they are tired, hungry and anxious,” she said. “Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer from low confidence and behavioural issues. Homelessness leads to ill health and absenteeism when the distance and cost of travelling to school from temporary accommodation is prohibitive. Teachers and support staff are mending clothes and washing uniforms, providing food and equipment.
“It is hardly credible that this is happening in one of the world’s largest economies,” she added.