Some schools in the UK are choosing to charge parents a daily fee in order to allow their children to eat the lunch they brought from home to school grounds.
School officials report needing the additional funds, which can reach as much as $2.57 per day, for costs associated with cleaning and child supervision.
The issue was uncovered by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers during their annual conference.
“Parents almost feel like they’re being fined because they haven’t gone for the school meal,” Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT said.
“Schools are justifying it by saying, ‘you’re having to be supervised to eat your lunch and therefore if you’re not having a school meal, you’ve got to contribute towards that supervision because you’ll be in the dining room, sitting there’.”
Unpublished research performed by NASUWT discovered 14 parents who were charged between 14 and 86 cents per day in order for their children to eat their homemade lunches at school.
Union bosses noted instances in which children were charged even more. The Times Education Supplement noted children in a secondary school in the south-east being charged a rate of $2.57 per day while a primary school in Yorkshire was found to be charging $1.43.
Keates said that in order to put a stop to the bagged lunch fees, the government must step in and clearly outline what schools can and cannot charge for, writes Amy Packham for The Huffington Post.
Honorary treasurer for the NASUWT Brian Cookson said this sort of thing would never have happened when he began teaching in the 1970’s. Cookson said that at that time, schools were considered to be a safety net for children, many of whom came from poverty-stricken families, by offering access to sports facilities, music programs and education.
Patrick Roach, the NASUWT’s deputy general secretary, called the situation “disgraceful.”
“Now just sitting in a dining hall and unwrapping your sandwiches is considered to be an optional extra, it’s disgraceful, it’s shocking,” he said. “Parents should be appalled in just the same way that we’re appalled.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Education agreed, calling the behavior of the schools unacceptable and adding that the Department will investigate in order to ensure that no loopholes exist for schools to take advantage of to charge parents extra money.
The issue was uncovered at a time when schools’ budgets are being made smaller, writes Javier Espinoza for The Telegraph.
Keates said that because of this, the government was to blame, and that as plans to change the funding system have become public, schools are anticipating losing thousands as a result. They’re looking to see what can be done about that, even if it means charging kids for their own lunches.
According to a recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders, 90% of secondary leaders said they believe the financial situation will reach critical levels or become serious over the next 12 months.