Children at a school in North London will be punished for late payments on school meals, by enforcing lunchtime detentions and restricted food, according to a letter from the headteacher.
Single mum Dionne Kelly has spoken out after receiving the ‘threatening letter’ from her child’s school, which stated that ‘your child will be placed in lunch isolation receiving a sandwich and piece of fruit only’ after her payment for her son’s school lunches was a week late.
The new rules have been imposed at Michaela Community School in North London, by ‘Superhead’ Katharine Birbalsingh – who is known for her speech at a Tory party conference in 2010 where she claimed that education is ‘broken’.
The Wembley-based school markets itself as having a ‘private school ethos’ but with ‘no fees’, with a traditional academic approach and long school days starting at 7.55am till 4pm. The head teacher describes this tough behaviour as a way of getting parents to ‘change their ways’.
Dionne, an unemployed care worker, understandably found receiving the letter, sent by Deputy Head Barry Smith, upsetting because of its ‘isolating’ nature.
Mail Online reported Dionne’s reaction: ‘I found the letter quite threatening. Isolating children for their parents not paying upfront is degrading. It’s embarrassing for poor families’.
What’s more, Dionne’s son Reon had only joined the school two weeks previously and was still going through the process of arranging free school meals. Aware of the late payment, by the time Dionne had received the letter she’d already paid the outstanding amount, but Reon was still punished with 60 minutes of isolation and a small lunch regardless.
Dionne has since moved her son to another school.
Headteacher Katharine argues that a ‘vast majority of schools use isolation to discipline children’ and that ‘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’.
In a contrasting opinion, Sam Royston of the Children’s Society hit back saying ‘no school should punish and potentially stigmatise a child because a parent has not paid for, or is unable to afford, school meals. Schools should be doing everything they can to support parents who may be struggling with the costs of feeding their children’.
On Twitter many users have been outraged by the school’s policy, with reactions such as ‘Essentially, we have a school saying “Pay up, or I’ll hurt your child.” That’s not education, it’s organised crime’ and ‘I would remove my children immediately from any establishment which thought this an appropriate sanction. I’m speechless’.
Do you think this school is wrong for punishing children for their parents’ mistakes, or should late payments be taken seriously as a family? Let us know in the comments below!