We’re furious after our kids’ school banned packed lunches – they’re forced to have canteen dinners for financial gain | The Sun

FURIOUS parents have blasted their kids' school for banning packed lunches and claim they are forced to have canteen dinners for financial gain.

Disgruntled mums and dads have slammed Bean Primary School in Dartford, Kent, for implementing a policy that takes away their right to choose.

Parents have also criticised the quality of the school dinners and the fact that pupils in other year groups can still choose to bring in packed lunch.

But the head teacher has leapt to the defence of the "excellent" free school dinners and insists that the policy was brought in to guarantee a certain number of cooked lunches.

Fay Armitage says her four-year-old daughter Bonnie, who is lactose intolerant, has been coming home with tummy aches, as she no longer has control over how much dairy is in her diet.

She told KentOnline: “I don’t say say she can’t eat certain food.

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“I just monitor what she eats and make sure she does not have too much of anything that is going to upset her tummy.”

Fay was hoping to send Bonnie in with a packed lunch of food so she would know exactly what she had eaten.

But parents have been told they must not do so, as it will be sent home at the end of the day and are instead told to fill in a special dietary request form.

She added: “I don’t mean them to tell me every mouthful she has, but just give me an idea, so I can adjust her evening meal accordingly.

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“If she has had a yoghurt I would know not to give her one later. They just told me they didn’t have enough staff to be able to do that."

Fay also believes the school's policy is taking away the children's right to choose despite being a Unicef Rights Respecting School.

She said: "This is highlighted on their website that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.

“Yet the school is ignoring the fact that some children would prefer a packed lunch and is forcing them to have a school dinner purely for financial gain.

“It is disappointing that Mr Reilly and the school governors are taking away the rights of the children by refusing to let the younger children have a packed lunch.

“While I appreciate that the government offers Universal Infant Free School meals, this is an offer and not compulsory.

“This is going to result in children being hungry unnecessarily and is not safeguarding my child or putting their needs first.

“It is instead preventing my child from eating properly.”

Fay has even taken Bonnie out of school to eat her packed lunch in the car when she believes the options are unsuitable.

The rule applies to children in Reception and Year 1 at Bean Primary School, under the government’s Universal Infant Free School meals policy.

But the change will be rolled out to each new academic year group until it covers the whole school and provides three choices to order from.

Fellow Bean Primary School parent Lissa Jones, of Park Corner Road, Betsham agreed with Fay's concerns.

“A decision on packed lunch or school dinners should rest with the parents of a child based on the parents’ knowledge of what a child can and will eat.

“Being forced to eat school dinners that children do not want to eat, will not eat and being forced to eat can have a detrimental effect."


Reception mum Marie Eldridge added: “I believe it should be the choice of the parent as to if a child should have school dinners or packed lunch.

“This new policy has caused an extremely unnecessary amount of upset to many of the children and parents as well as being detrimental to an already massive transition for them.”

In a letter to parents the school assured them staff were checking that children had eaten enough.

It is stated that if a child was not eating adequately a member of staff would let the parent know, but that they might come home with an appetite due to their busy day.

Head teacher Graham Reilly said: “The policy was brought in a year ago because of the school’s need to guarantee a certain number of cooked lunches from the provider. The quality of meals is excellent and we have received many compliments from parents and pupils.

“There were no issues last year and the policy is being rolled out as each year group progresses, so children who have brought packed lunches in the past can continue to do so until they change schools.

“The situation is explained to every parent who takes part in the meetings for reception-age children before choosing that school for their child. There is a lactose-free alternative for affected children. It is not feasible to prepare a written report on everything an individual pupil has eaten.”


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A spokesman for Kent County Council said: “Schools can decide their own policy on lunch provisions and there is no obligation on them to allow packed lunches.

“In this case, we completely understand the school’s situation which is sensible from both a financial and health perspective.”

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