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School forcing KS1 children to have school dinners

(72 Posts)
gemgemninknonk Tue 08-Jul-14 18:40:24

From September my children's school is making it compulsory for all KS1 children to have the free school dinners.
I am unhappy about this for several reasons but mainly because it is my choice as to what my children should eat.
I provide them with a healthy and balanced packed lunch and they do on occasion have school dinners but again this is my choice.

I have been wondering if the school can actually do this legally and to perhaps take things further but I don't want to start a rebellion without being armed with as much information as possible.

Any advice on how to handle this would be much appreciated.

hobblebobble Tue 08-Jul-14 21:17:46

I am lucky that our school does amazing school meals so most them and school encourage it. However I am not sure that Academy's Free schools and private have to stick to the same guidelines on what can be served?

IndiansInTheLobby Tue 08-Jul-14 21:20:10

The main problem that I have with school dinners is that they taste like crap. I don't want ds going off food because the version that he is given at school tastes horrible. I still have a friend who hates many foods due to terrible school dinners.

I have only ever worked at 1 school where the food tasted nice. The others have all been disgusting.

ShinySilver Tue 08-Jul-14 21:21:18

The head of my school told us in the toolkit they received from the Government it specifically said that the school could tell parents the children had to have hot dinners or be taken home for lunch. So they would be perfectly within their rights to ban packed lunches for the infants.

Thankfully they are not doing this. I really feel for any parents in schools who are banning packed lunches. There is no way my son would eat a school dinner - so I would have to fetch him home for lunch (and what on earth would a working mum do in that situation - be forced to let their child go hungry at lunchtime?!)

clam Tue 08-Jul-14 21:35:15

I don't think it's the school you should be directing your anger at. This was Nick Clegg's bright idea. Write to him.

Pico2 Tue 08-Jul-14 21:47:01

How do they get the children to eat the sugar free puddings? They sound rank.

negrilbaby Tue 08-Jul-14 21:50:27

We complain so easily in this country.
Our children are being given hot food for lunch!!
Many parents worldwide would be so grateful.
Save The Children

clam Tue 08-Jul-14 21:58:38

Most of the kids in my school tip the bulk of their lunch in the bin. So I would guess if they don't like what's on offer (e.g. a sugar-free pudding), there would be no questions asked.
And there are many parents assuming their child has eaten a full meal at lunchtime!

Gileswithachainsaw Tue 08-Jul-14 22:03:34

Aaaah the old "it's free so we should be grateful even if it's shit" arguement.

Yes others have it worse and we are sorry about that but doesn't mean we have to accept it when we should have a choice.

Pico2 Tue 08-Jul-14 22:05:05

Feeding grim food to children so that they bin most of it is one way to try to tackle childhood obesity. It doesn't quite seem the right way though.

nonicknameseemsavailable Tue 08-Jul-14 22:08:12

hmm if they taste awful then I can imagine my children asking me to rethink things in the autumn then.

ours have to be sat separately from hot dinners at the moment due to huge space issues but obviously this ruling is changing things so they will have to get 180 kids through and therefore I assume they are factoring it all in and instead of sitting on the classroom floor to eat their packed lunch (I am not joking) they will presumably all end up in the hall at the same time whatever their lunch is but have more sittings? no idea really, I am not entirely sure the school know yet either.

personally I think it is a poorly thought out idea that has been rushed through with no thought to how on earth schools are going to cope with it all and whether all these children need free food.

hiccupgirl Tue 08-Jul-14 22:15:19

I think the problem is that for many schools it is a huge financial investment to be able to provide free dinners for all KS1 and Reception children. Therefore it is easier and more cost effective for them to say that all the children will have them rather than have to use adults to supervise the one or two who don't and to make the build cost of new kitchens etc worthwhile. And clearly they are allowed to do this as you do have the choice to take your child home for lunch instead.

Luckily my DS's school is keeping the dinners as optional but I suspect the vast majority of his class will have them.

stargirl1701 Tue 08-Jul-14 22:48:00

The actual savoury part of the meal has improved greatly over the last decade in all the schools I have worked in. There is a lovely salad bar in my school now - no limits to how much you can have. The portions ought to be different though - a five year old and a ten year old need different amounts, IMO.

A lot of food does go in the bin. Including the bizarre, tasteless puddings grin

Loobylou3 Tue 08-Jul-14 22:58:39

I believe the government directive is that 'pupils will routinely be offered a hot meal option'

PastSellByDate Wed 09-Jul-14 06:54:10


First off offering free school meals YR - Y2 is required by the government - this isn't the school doing this to you - this is the national government:

You know what - I think most schools offer a day when you can go in and see what is on offer but you can also just contact the school.

The one day a week option around here is usually pizza day - but I agree not exactly haute cuisine.

The point is schools are trying to do better (maybe not to French standards) but trying to introduce children to a range of things.

I think if you arranged with the school to see what was on offer at lunch you'd feel more reassured. Our school offers cold sandwiches/ jacket potato & filling/ vegetarian option + salad & fruit bar, which children can go to as much as they like. DD1 tends to polish off their cucumber supply at the minute.

If you don't like the quality of the food - lobby the school. But in general you are getting this for free (so it is saving you money). Two hot meals a day isn't 'too much' for a growing child - and children tend to eat until full and stop. Indeed some children (hmmm, hmmm) tend to stop eating early to go out and play.

I think your elder child will understand that this is offered free to you right now and that when they're older they'll go over to packed lunches too.

The average school meal cost around £2 a day and families who earn <£16K a year are entitled to apply for Free School Meals:

Personally I can't get away with making my child a packed lunch for that much under £2(sandwich, vegetable sticks, fruit, sweet (small candy - school has banned chocolate bars), crisps, cheese string/ baby bell).


Gileswithachainsaw Wed 09-Jul-14 07:20:50

Personally I can't get away with making my child a packed lunch for that much under £2(sandwich, vegetable sticks, fruit, sweet (small candy - school has banned chocolate bars), crisps, cheese string/ baby bell)

The difference is though that your money goes on food. Out of the price of the meal about 50p goes on the food and the rest on staff/overheads

Retropear Wed 09-Jul-14 09:13:20

The bizarre tasteless puddings are egg to get the calorie content up because they include so little protein to save money.Hence kids being starving after.

Forcing families to put up with this is utterly wrong.

PastSellByDate Wed 09-Jul-14 09:58:37

Giles: I would argue that bulk buying and at discounts (which schools qualify for) mean that in fact they can get more for than £1.50 than an individual consumer paying VAT/ full priced at a store.

Retropear & Gem: If you do not like the quality of the food - then complain. Schools are making tasty, nutritious meals for ~£2 a head and including things like cooking lessons where children prepare food from what they've grown (in forest school/ in class).

I'm not saying it's easy or straightforward - but it is entirely possible to have an interesting and healthy range of food on offer through a school menu.

More info here:

This is just an example of what Woodlands Junior school is offering for lunch - price £1.60:

Our school introduced a vote for the favourite and least favourite school dinner option (omnivore/ vegetarian voted separately). They then review the least favourite and either improve the recipe or replace it with something new. But our school employs cooks.

We have also pushed to allow the vegetarian option to be available to all students - unless running low.

I think you have to seriously investigate whether your school is buying in meals via a caterer (and then look into them in terms of quality/ sourcing of foodstuffs) - or if the school has in-house cooks and is preparing the food themselves. Our school is preparing the food themselves and really pride themselves on offering a wide range of choice and always offering fruit or yogurt as an alternative to the 'dessert' choice. Their view is any fruit not eaten can be washed and added into KS1 fruit snack and yogurts can be returned to the fridge and used again - so there aren't huge cost implications. There is a certain amount of wastage with salads - but in general not a huge amount and they monitor what is popular vs. what isn't and adjust quantities accordingly.

Personally not having to make a lunch in the morning (except for the odd school trip that requires it) does free me up to ensure my girls have a good breakfast (which I kind of think is more important).


holmessweetholmes Wed 09-Jul-14 10:09:35

I just can't stand the hypocrisy about school dinners. They police the lunchboxes like mad - banning various things. But I've just checked the menu for my dc's school and there is a stodgy and/or sugary pudding every single day. I went in for the taster day a while back and tasted their 'sugar-free' flapjacks. They, unlike the grim main courses, were absolutely delicious. It turned out that this was because they were full of golden syrup. And apparently that doesn't count as sugar hmm !

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 09-Jul-14 10:37:59

There's more sugar in syrup than in the equivilants amount of sugar.


PastSellByDate Wed 09-Jul-14 10:40:04


Ye average flapjack ( is about 135 calories.

Recommended caloric intake (KCAL per day) children 4 - 6 years of age is

1715 calories for boys

1545 calories for girls


ye olde flapjack would equal 8% of a boys daily caloric intake/ 9% of a girls daily caloric intake.

Now portion control on the part of the school may mean that they're actually getting even less.

However - the reality is most children are very active - playing, moving about, never sitting still - and their bodies can cope with a bit of sugar.

As a parent - if you object to sugars (not just the granulated variety) you can request that they are on a low sugar diet (excluding processed sugars) and offered fruit or yogurt instead of a 'stodgy pudding'.

Like anything it's all about balance - and unfortunately around here you see Y6 boys fueling up on crisps and soda on the walk into school and greeted with a bar of chocolate by the parents at the end of the school day (knowing they're going home to polish off 3 -4 packets of crisps). And that really is too large a portion of 'processed/ fatty' foods in your diet - child or adult.

Vacillating Wed 09-Jul-14 11:35:26

Great if your school has lovely lunches, mine doesn't and isn't going to. Lobbying will make no difference as there are fundamental limitations in the school's resources and they are happy with current provision.

I wouldn't eat them, my children don't wasn't to and them being free doesn't make them more attractive to any of us. I don't have to buy in to a culture of shit food for children on any level.

holmessweetholmes Wed 09-Jul-14 12:22:42

No, PastSellByDate, what I object to is them effectively lying about their food. I entirely agree that there is nothing wrong with the odd flapjack. I make them myself too. They would be horrible without any sugar, syrup or honey in them. I'm not interested in calorie counts and so on - my kids are slim, very active and need plenty of food.
What I think it is outrageous however is to ban things from packed lunches and then give equally 'bad' things every single day in the school dinners. It just proves that the policies have very little to do with concerns about the children's diet. They are effectively saying 'You bad mummy for giving your child a (tiny) evil sugary chocolate cookie in her packed lunch! She should be having our (enormous) lovely, healthy sugar-free flapjack instead <hiding tin of golden syrup behind back>'. It's controlling, hypocritical bollocks.

holmessweetholmes Wed 09-Jul-14 12:23:57

Oops, I'm sure there were paragraphs in that rant when I clicked 'post'!

ElephantsNeverForgive Wed 09-Jul-14 12:27:24

DD2 simply wouldn't eat and I'd let the school have the joy of teaching her all afternoon.

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 09-Jul-14 12:33:41

I'd much rather, a small portion of a cake containing sugar/fat that actually tastes nice than have a sugar and fat free version every day that's massive

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