The story was reported this week of a Bradford primary school banning sausage rolls, pork pies and other foods they school deems unhealthy. Some laud this initiative others don’t, one parent told the BBC schools should ‘stick to teaching kids.
I completely agree with the schools motivation but if my children’s primary or secondary schools had issued such an edict I would not be happy. But how many conversations have I had about poor packed lunches, not only as a member of school staff but as a parent hearing anecdotal stories on the same matter.
On my first ever school trip as a parent helper another parent tutted at the crisps and Penguin one of the children had to enhance a cheese sandwich and apple. The same parent was unhappy that another child’s apple was not sliced and a third child had Jelly Tots in a pot of plain fromage frais. For myself, I saw it as none of my business, but relaying this jolly tale would prompt stories of other, much more unusual, packed lunches and breakfasts.
I heard of the child who came into infants school with a McDonald’s hamburger for breakfast each day. Another child was suddenly late for school regularly, chats with mum found out they were getting a bus to Greggs for the child’s breakfast, and the times of the buses from the shops to school had changed, hence the lateness. When the idea of breakfast at home was suggested mum felt she ‘didn’t have time and coco pops are very unhealthy.’
I also heard of the school that had a rule of no chocolate in packed lunches for trips, but these were replaced by Haribo and worse! When I started working in schools I was taken aback by the packed lunch that consisted of a family pack of Doritos and a small box of Ferrero Rocher.
Most school staff will tell you of the post lunch rise in sugar levels when you are on a trip (it’s a fact, believe me) and I think it’s right to say “don’t bring…..” but a blanket ban on various things, can they do that? Well, yes, if they feel they have to.
All school rules have to apply to everyone, be it walk on the left, stand when a member of staff enters the room, ‘do up that top button’, or telling parents not to drive into the school (as we saw this week). Obviously extreme cases will bring exceptions, but you have to be hard pushed not to find anyone, parent or child who will not understand.
The other option would be to single out parents “Dear Mr & Mrs Jones, your children packed lunches could be better, have you considered humous and crudite? Or wholemeal bread?” You can’t ask selected parents to watch what is put in lunchboxes, this would simply be divisive, so the action taken by the school this week is the safest way of heading towards educating their children in the benefits of a healthy diet.
Such news is not a new departure, just google “school tells parents about packed lunches” there is a plethora of stories. There is also a plethora of people who would say schools should be telling parents about healthy diet. As we know, you can’t please everyone so the school has to do what the senior leadership team identifies as appropriate for their intake.
There have been similar conversations about homework. Primary school homework is often mentioned as a major source of stress for some. But as some will be stressed by the very idea of sitting down with their nine year old and working on integers or compound nouns, others will relish it.
One of my early Twitter claims to fame was Kirsty Allsop responding to me when she was unhappy about the homework her son was bringing home from his reception class. I’d known reception class homework to be an idea of what to speak to your children about, or what to read to them, or with them. In a thread on the matter I I tweeted that schools often have to give guidance, Ms Allsop responded to me “so give guidance, not homework”. The next response was from a lady saying her son did not realise that colouring a sheet with shoes, shops, sheep etc was homework, neither was showing her what he could read.
If primary school homework is not done, there is nothing that can be done about it, parents get the choice of doing it or not. Ultimately it’s the same with packed lunches. You will not find any school with a homogenised intake, nor will you find a school issuing edict for the laughs