To be upset by this teacher's comment about children receiving free school dinners?

(155 Posts)
cafebistro Wed 06-Feb-13 13:03:36

I have recently split up with my DP. We have 3 DC's 2 of which are at school. As I have been a SAHM since having children I have had to claim benefits until I can get sorted. I found out this week that my school age children will be receiving free school meals as of Monday.
I went for coffee at a good friend's this morning after the school run and another of her friends popped round whilst I was there. She's a part time teacher at a primary school ( not DC's school) and my friend was asking how work was etc. During the course of the conversation while discussing her work load she mentioned that as there was only 9 free school meal children at ther school now (v. small school) then her workload wasn't as great as these types of kids needed more imput hmm. My friend asked her to clarify and she said well they're more time consuming and needed more attention. To me she was implying that children in receipt of free school meals obviously have social problems within the family and maybe behavioural issues??
I'm upset to say the least.

TeamEdward Wed 06-Feb-13 13:23:25

A lot of schools will encourage parents to claim/register for FSM, even if they don't actually take them up (because they have packed lunch or go home). This is because of the extra funding available.
Schools are judged on the progress of children with FSM, as a cohort.

"Victims of circumstances" can also act out and need support, whether their family is in financial trouble or not.

elliejjtiny Wed 06-Feb-13 13:23:50

This kind of thing really annoys me. There is a lot of support aimed at children whose parents are on a low income/benefits (sure start, funding that kicks in when a child gets FSM, free nursery for 2 year olds) that assumes that low income/benefits = lack of parenting skills.

DH got promoted to manager before DS1 started school so we didn't qualify but if he hadn't we would have got the FSM and funding that goes with it. DH was a nursery nurse and I am a SAHM with a nursery nurse qualification. Despite the low income we were/are perfectly capable of parenting our children/listening to them read/supervising homework and all the other things that low income parents supposedly don't know how to do.

mademred Wed 06-Feb-13 13:23:58

Who says children on fsm are less likely to succeed? Are they fed worse food? They are less likely to suceed because of teachers like this and her attitude.my as who is 7 didn't progress atall at school, he's very bright, but a new school and a more understanding teacher he's comming on great.nothing to do with what he eats and who pays for it.my dh has become disabled and unable to work.

Hi I am a primary school teacher and yes, your friend's comment was incredibly insensitive and not entirely accurate - however, at my school at least, we have to gather data under the heading of "vulnerable groups" and that includes FSM children alongside other categories like Looked After Children, summer born children, working class white boys etc. It's a terrible system and can obviously provide the wrong kind of stereotype - but the reasons schools keep track of these things is so that if a child is progressing slowly in school, these things can be used as a reason to justify the lack of progress and help teachers to plan IEPs or extra input for those children.

Hope this helps explain why your friend made that comment, and I'm sure she didn't mean to offend you or anyone else with children who have FSM.

ThingummyBob Wed 06-Feb-13 13:29:20

Its quite common that children are categorized as being in receipt of FSM.

I help out with reading at a primary in yr 1. The children in receipt of fsm have to be read with on a one-to-one basis everyday. Other children are read with as time allows or once per week minimum.

Schools have received a pupil premium for children in receipt of fsm for some time now. I remember a thread where the op was annoyed that head had asked parents to notify her/him if the family were entitled to fsm even if they didn't take the lunches.
It is because schools then ensure that they receive all the additional funding avaialble to them

IsabelleRinging Wed 06-Feb-13 13:30:08

Actually, you will find that the number of children receiving free school meals is recorded and documented. Offsted use this information to report and as an indicator of the socio-economic intake of the school. A high percentage of FSMs is seen to indicate that many of the children are from poorer backgrounds and will be disadvantaged in one way or another. On a general scale children receiving FSMs are less likely to do well at school. Of course there will be lots of exceptions (you probably) but from the statistical point of view it is relevant. I may be wrong, but I think schools receive extra funding also for children receiving FSMs so it is obviously seen as an indicator of educational disadvantage.

Inertia Wed 06-Feb-13 13:30:47

It sounds like a very tactless sweeping generalisation.

However, it is true that the proportion of children entitled to FSM is used as a measure of how disadvantaged the school cohort is likely to be. (Not sure whether this is still the case, but I believe OFSTED used to look for evidence to show how the school ensured that children on FSM had suitable teaching provision - I guess things like they may not be able to provide expensive cooking ingredients for Food lessons?)

It's not the change in lunch that's the issue; more that a child entitled to FSM may be more likely to be in a household where financial problems or family break-ups cause stress, or they may not be securely housed so might not have access to internet for homework, or washing facilities for PE kit/ swim kit.

Ilovesunflowers Wed 06-Feb-13 13:30:47

The pupil premium is there to address inequalities between those on FSM and those who aren't.

To be honest those on FSM often do need additional support in my experience as a teacher. That isn't always for learning though. It is sometimes for social difficulties, sometimes for emotional support, sometimes something as simple as help affording school trips and equipment such as PE kits. Sometimes they have behaviour issues and yes this is more common in those on FSM IME (I am not claiming to know why)

In the schools I taught at there was approximitely 40% FSM. Despite all this all children are unique. There will be children on FSM who achieve 10 GCSEs at A* and there will be those who struggle if they come from difficult families. FSM does not = difficult family but it does seem more common. I don't know why.

I wouldn't be offended in any way. The teacher is right that FSM children often need more support. It doesn't mean yours will. Everyone is different.
The pupil premium is often used to fund additional TAs who help all children but with a focus on those on fsm. Ofsted actually expect teachers to know who is on fsm in the class. They then expect you to be able to say what you are doing to address their needs. This is all quite time consuming. Some schools expect detailed case studies about children on fsm so that they have them to hand for Ofsted. Mine did.

Incidently the brightest child I ever taught was on FSM.

itsallinmyhead Wed 06-Feb-13 13:33:11

I'm absolutely flabbergasted at her reasoning.

I grew up in a very poor area of Glasgow and it was a rare sight to behold if any of the children in the whole school brought a packed lunch or paid for lunch! grinshock

treaclesoda Wed 06-Feb-13 13:39:32

I can understand why, if you are in receipt of FSMs, a throwaway comment like this is really hurtful.

I suppose the reality is that the government has seen, over many years, that children who fall into this category are more likely to need extra support etc, hence the pupil premium to try to redress the balance. But that's not to say that every school thinks that every child who is entitled to fsm is going to struggle or be difficult. I also see the point people are making about self fulfilling prophecies, and children not achieving because their teachers don't expect them to, but surely a child's home life has a far greater influence on their achievement than their teacher's attitude? The teacher is teaching the whole class, and a child who is encouraged by his/her parents to work to the best of their ability should do ok, regardless of the teacher's attitude.

I would guess that encouragement from parents can, to a certain extent, overcome any perceived negativity from a teacher, because parents should be the greatest influence in their child's life. Similarly, an encouraging teacher can overcome some degree of parental disinterest (although that is no doubt more difficult). The children who really suffer are those where the parents and teachers are both uninterested in their education - those are the children who really get left behind, sadly, FSMs or no FSMs.

CashmereHoodlum Wed 06-Feb-13 13:40:38

Phoenixrose314 Please could you explain a bit about what criteria your school would use to define working class white boys? Mainly the working class bit. I am genuinely interested. School have never asked what we do for a living and I'm interested in how we would be categorised by the school.

cafebistro Wed 06-Feb-13 13:41:23

Thanks for all the replies. I understand more where she was coming from as I didnt realise about the funding aspect. Luckily I have no issues with my DC's academically especially my son who got outstanding SATS results last year. Maybe the funding would be better spent on the 'academically struggling' children rather than my son who just happens to have a 'poor' mummy.

WorraLiberty Wed 06-Feb-13 13:44:10

Here's what Save The Children have to say about it...

A pupil on free school meals is only a third as likely to succeed at every key stage at school compared to their better off classmates. The gap in development starts to emerge between children as early as age 22 months.

www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/child-poverty/uk-child-poverty

Ilovesunflowers Wed 06-Feb-13 13:45:57

cafebistro - in reality the money tends to benefit most of the pupils anyway, especially when money is used to find additional TAs. It just prevents schools in Mayfair (or equivalent) getting the same money as those schools in a much more disadvantaged area.

My son, who does not fit into any of the categories that PhonexRose refers to, could absolutely do with some more attention and support in school. Not because he is struggling academically, but emotionally.

Seems I must go claim some Free School Meals to get him some more support then. wink

cafebistro Wed 06-Feb-13 13:48:37

Pure - you can have my son's funding if you like wink

WorraLiberty Wed 06-Feb-13 13:48:52

The funding that FSM's brings to the school isn't just spent on the individual child who has a free dinner.

As sunflowers points out, the children as a whole will benefit.

WorraLiberty Wed 06-Feb-13 13:50:18

Basically it all goes into the school budget and then that budget is spent in areas where the school feels it needs it most.

So all our children have been benefiting from those on FSM anyway.

ibizagirl Wed 06-Feb-13 13:50:58

Dd is entitled to free meals but takes a packed lunch. She is not a problem child! Yes, i am a single parent etc. But that is it. Although she was classed as "underprivilaged" when she started high school and was offered a trip away for a week at an outdoor adventure place free of charge "as she was on free meals etc". We declined the offer as we only went to Ibiza a couple of months ago!! You see what i am getting at? People assume because the child is on free meals that they are thick or dirty or whatever. I used to help at my dd's primary school and there were a lot of children on free meals. Funnily enough the ones who were on free meals were brighter and more well behaved than the others.

Deal cafebistro - yours get the food and mine the support! grin

WorraLiberty Wed 06-Feb-13 13:53:03

ibizagirl how did you know who was on FSMs and who wasn't?

ThingummyBob Wed 06-Feb-13 13:53:30

Its not all about academics though cafe. The extra funding can be used however the school wish. It might pay for additional staff, IT equipment or even to subsidise trips so that every child gets to participate rather than only those who can afford it.

JakeBullet Wed 06-Feb-13 13:54:16

DS is entitled to FSM but rarely has them as he prefers packed lunches.smile .

I did apply for them though as the school gets extra money.

ibizagirl Wed 06-Feb-13 13:54:42

Just to add that dd has always done exceptionally well at school and has never had any extra help at all. So i don't know where this money for children on free school meals goes because dd hasn't had to use any!!

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