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How to phrase letter?

(20 Posts)
chillie Sun 06-Nov-16 11:47:28

My son has just started secondary school in sept. It became clear very soon that whilst there are 1200 boys in the school, there is only room in the cafeteria for 300 boys. Lunch is 40mins long. The only other place to go is an outside area for each year group with seating for 30 boys max in each playground. My son has packed lunches as he says the queue is too long. If you choose to sit inside to eat your lunch there is no way to sit with friends and you are turfed out after 15mins to make space for others to have lunch. There has been more than one occasion that it has rained all day and there was no space in the cafeteria so son ate lunch cuddled to the side of a building sitting on his bag. I went to a PTA meeting which the Head attended and asked him if there was somewhere else my son could eat lunch as I thought son was being a noodle and just did not know about somewhere else to eat. To my shock the head confirmed that there was nowhere else to eat and that there was a 'wet weather plan' but 'luckily' it was only used 3 times for the whole of the previous year. Not a word was said about the lack of seating outside or a cold weather plan. Another parent told me that the boys are resourceful and always find a way. I am new to the PTA and did not want to have a row so I said nothing. However I really do not see why the boys are being treated in a manner that no adult would be treated in. I am about to write a letter to the head but don't know whether I should go in with a gently gently approach and just say how unpleasant it is to eat a cold packed lunch in the freezing cold and wet or whether I should state the school premises act and the school food for England paper. I am dismayed that the very people who are acting in 'loco parentis ' are happily sitting inside eating their lunch in the warmth whilst all the kids are outside freezing. The head has said that a roof only to protect from the rain would be £35000 and that there is a limited budget and minibuses for the rugby teams and computers for the 6th form have to take priority. I just don't get the impression that the school thinks that a warm, dry place for the boys to eat on a daily basis is a priority in any way. I think it is a basic! Any advice welcome on how to write this letter as I am really stressed about it and really don't want to get it wrong.

FATEdestiny Sun 06-Nov-16 11:53:44

Is it a state school or a private school?

MaryField Sun 06-Nov-16 11:57:29

I'm surprised there isn't staggered lunches. E.g. Three sessions of 20 minutes and canteen cleared between each session. Canteen only used for paying lunches. Could you ask about using certain classrooms or the hall for packed lunches?

titchy Sun 06-Nov-16 11:57:44

Can I strongly suggest you don't go in all guns blazing saying it's not fair. Secondary schools are hugely under resourced and it's quite normal not to have enough space for all the kids in the canteen st the same time. This is pretty normal I'm afraid, and it's always year 7s that get squashed out!

You can either suggest some fundraising, or suggest they stagger the lunch period if they don't already.

Ditsyprint40 Sun 06-Nov-16 12:02:22

Staggered lunch is a good idea. Is it state/academy or private?

chillie Sun 06-Nov-16 12:09:32

Its a state school. They also took an extra 30 boys for year 7 this year.

chillie Sun 06-Nov-16 12:20:20

titchy I wasn't going to say it is unfair, that would imply an opinion, I was going to say it is not legal. School premises temps must be over 16degrees to teach and over 13degrees if high exertion activities are involved like sport. Eating lunch cannot possibly be classed as high exertion. I also found this www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/551813/School_food_in_England.pdf
I do think that staggered lunchtimes would help but this does not change the fact that a basic right of a child in a first world country is not being met whilst the adults sit and make excuses. No adult would accept these conditions and the law would and does ensure this so why not the kids?

ilovesooty Sun 06-Nov-16 12:22:54

What do you think a solution could be?

Portobelly Sun 06-Nov-16 12:32:11

I totally agree with you.
I think that expecting young people to eat whilst not seated at a table, without cutlery and drinking water in a glass is one of the big reasons why we are experiencing an obesity problem.
We are teaching them that eating is something to squeeze in, to do on the go.
We are not teaching them to listen to their bodies, to recognise their appetite, to eat good quality foodstuff, never mind not reinforcing good table manners.

I would be horrified if I found my child was expected to eat in this manner.

I would be insisting that classrooms were provided, that they were supervised. That the students were expected to wipe the desk before and after. That jugs of water were available etc.

Bluntness100 Sun 06-Nov-16 12:39:59

I agee, this isn't good, I am not sure I'd write a letter, maybe I'd come up with a proposal at the next meeting. Staggered lunches is what my daughters school did, and they could potentially allocate a spare classroom, but they need to resolve this.

titchy Sun 06-Nov-16 12:42:14

Oh please don't go in citing laws. In practical terms what can the school do? Pretend you're in charge. What would you do given the available space and budget. Present solutions. Don't go on the offensive.

ilovesooty Sun 06-Nov-16 12:46:59

Is the school an academy? If so the teachers will not necessarily be protected by STPCD and will probably be told to supervise pupils in classrooms at lunchtime

OhTheRoses Sun 06-Nov-16 12:53:44

Lunch sittings and if they have to, utilise the school hall, tables in corridors, etc.

It's dreadful and if teachers don't understand the basics such as this they've no business setting curriculums for things like PSHE. A rota isn't hard to introduce. I'd approach it from that angle.

noblegiraffe Sun 06-Nov-16 13:09:10

If you want kids to be supervised at lunchtime then you have to pay for supervisors. Schools don't have any money.

What do the older kids at the school do? They've usually found a way around the system that doesn't involve eating in the rain, that probably breaks 'official' rules but teachers turn a blind eye because they realise the situation is ridiculous too.

chillie Sun 06-Nov-16 16:21:07

Thank you everyone for replying. Many of you are being the exact voice of caution that I really need to hear but I am so cross and dismayed that the adults who are looking after them are failing them that I am finding hard to heed your kind advice.
Some of you have asked what I think should happen and have stated that the schools have no money. I do know this but also feel quite strongly that that is what the headmaster is for, it is what he gets paid to do. It is his job to prioritise where and what money gets spent. I am an ex teacher and know all about the lack of funds all schools suffer with but this is just not acceptable.
I am struggling quite badly with the notion that by not kicking up a really big stink that I am not protecting by son and his rights purely because he is a child and doesn't know any better. this is an issue that happens in schools all over the country and it seems to be no big deal because its kids.. It would be all over the news and unions would be up in arms if it was adults.

noblegirraffe it is in the food standards that kids have to be supervised at lunchtimes, its not an option for schools.

''Facilities to eat the food that they bring to school must be provided free of charge for pupils not taking school meals. As a minimum these facilities should include accommodation, furniture and supervision so that pupils can eat food they have brought from home in a safe and social environment''

I have asked what older boys do but he says he doesn't know as they all have different playgrounds.

noblegiraffe Sun 06-Nov-16 16:27:39

The kids are supervised in the cafeteria, and there will be supervisors on duty around the site. It was the suggestion that kids be supervised in classrooms to eat their lunch that would create an extra bill for supervisors.

I think your best bet is asking for staggered lunch sittings so that everyone gets a chance to sit down as that can be done at no extra cost, but it does mean a limited time in the canteen.

FATEdestiny Sun 06-Nov-16 16:32:19

My guess would be that designated rooms are assigned for lunch. Possibly tutor rooms or house rooms. But that this is used by a certain "group" of kids. I hate lables but for example the nerds, the naughty kids, the smokers, the swots. Whatever "group" it is. So while there will be facilities for many, most don't want to associate with said group. Or all the "cool kids" stay outside so that's where his mates are.

Your post reads like you think the Head doesn't know/is ignoring his legal responsibility. I can't stress heavily enough that this is highly highly unlikely and you'll just look like a fool if you go in all guns blazing.

I assume OFSTED have visited the school? Several times over the last decade? Schools simply cannot bypass their legal responsibility. With the possible exception of a newly created, not yet visited by Ofsted poorly managed school - All legal requirements will be covered.

titchy Sun 06-Nov-16 17:46:20

It would be all over the news and unions would be up in arms if it was adults.

Not sure that's true - very few offices provide a staff canteen.

I know you're pissed off, but imagine your ds is year 11, a keen computer scientist, but unable to take A level Computer science because the school can't resource it. Seriously suggest a staggered lunchtime. They may end up having to have a quick lunch, or huddled together in a corner, but they'll eat, they'll have some social time.

CauliflowerSqueeze Mon 07-Nov-16 06:35:52

I think you have a fair point. It's not acceptable that they just have to stand in the rain.

I would suggest asking for the gym to be opened and a couple of MDS to be deployed there. Other than that, it is his responsibility to organise a dry area for students to eat in.
Good luck.

flowersandsunshine Wed 09-Nov-16 11:36:26

Why does transport to rugby for a few boys take priority over eating lunch for all boys?

I'd be livid if this was my dcs' school.

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