According to the head teacher at Ravensdale Junior School in Mickleover, Derbyshire, the school had merely been following the dinner-debt policy. Children will be given bread and butter if their families owe over £10 ($13 USD) in school dinner debts.
Speaking to Mail Online, the 31-year-old Katrina Dakin said it was ‘disgusting’ for the school to deprive kids of a proper lunch because their parents owed money . Her sons were given bread smeared with butter and an apple each to have for lunch on a Monday. According to her, the school had no right to starve her sons – 9-year-old Levi and 10-year-old Tyler – because she couldn’t remember being informed about the debt prior to that day.
She was asleep when the debt notifications came in
Katrina works 12-hour night shifts at The New Lodge Care Home in Derbyshire, England. Before the Easter Holidays, her sons had ordered school dinners and also received packed meals from the school, thereby incurring a debt of £17.60 (approximately $23 USD) in total. She was sleeping during the day when the school contacted her via text message, informing her of the fact that her sons would be denied lunch if she doesn’t pay off her outstanding debts before 11 am.
The text read: “Despite our text messages, Levi and Tyler have ordered lunch today without payment. Please pay online or over the phone before 11 am or we will not provide lunch.”
Katrina had been asleep when this text came in, so she couldn’t have immediately settled the bill. An hour later, they sent another text message:
“As we have still not received payment for dinners, the boys will be given bread and butter and an apple at lunchtime.’’
She immediately cleared the debt through online payment when she read the texts later in the day, but her sons had already been denied their lunch.
“Like Oliver Twist begging for gruel…”
The distraught mother likened the situation to the scene of Oliver Twist begging for dumplings to eat in the Charles Dickens novel, “Oliver Twist”. She said her sons were removed from the lunchroom and made wait to in a separate area for their bread and butter meal.
“I work nights so when I turned my phone on at 1.30pm I saw the text when I woke up,” she said. “I paid it straight away. I owed the school £8.80 per child but they know I always pay it. If the school had confronted me at the start of the day when I took them to school, I would have paid it.”
According to her, the boys were traumatized by the ordeal, not merely for receiving bread, butter, and apples and starving the whole day, but for being separated from the other kids. Katrina said the kids informed her that they’d never order school dinners again if that meant they wouldn’t incur any more debts.
After clearing the debts, she knew her sons would be hungry. The meal would have probably been too light to sustain them.
“I took them straight to the shop for a meal deal,” she said. “They were really hungry. They told me they were called to the office, away from their friends, and made to wait for their bread and butter. All the parents think it’s really bad.”
Parents online weigh in on the matter
A poll run by Derbyshire Live had parents divided over the situation . 65% of the voters polled in favor of the school, blaming Katrina’s negligence to payment of bills for the incident.
The first question on the poll read: ‘Is Katrina right to complain about what happened?’
72% voted: ‘No – if she had paid her school dinners’ bill this would not have happened’.
The second question read: Is the school right to give just bread and butter to children whose parents have not paid the dinner bill’.
68% voted: ‘Yes – there’s nothing wrong with bread and butter if parents who can afford it haven’t paid’.
On average, 65% of the viewers were in support of the school’s actions.
The school speaks out
In a public-released statement, a spokesperson for the school said it would be unfair to parents who were up-to-date on their bills to feed kids who are in debt the same food as their kids. According to the statement, bread and butter are the ‘kindest options.’
“At Ravensdale, we pride ourselves on the quality of our freshly-cooked lunches, providing three choices each day for pupils, as well as a salad bar and a piece of fruit with dessert. However, we cannot afford to let a child have a free dinner if they are not entitled to one and nor is this fair to our other parents. Our policy is that once a child or family owe £10 or over, the child will not be given dinner. On these occasions (which are rare) governors decided that children would be given bread and butter/jam and a drink instead. This was deemed to be the kindest option, whilst still being fair to all parents. Schools receive no extra funding for meals and the food, staffing costs and the running of the kitchen all have to be financed through dinner money payments.”
- Duell, Mark. Mother hits out her sons’ ‘Dickensian’ school after boys were only allowed bread and butter for lunch because she owed £17 for school dinners. Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6980167/Children-allowed-bread-butter-lunch-school.html. 05-01-2019.
- Whittaker, Anna. Mum fuming after children fed bread and butter over school dinner debt. Derbyshire Live. https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/derby-news/mum-fuming-after-children-fed-2815755. 05-01-2019
- Staff. The New Lodge Nursing Home. https://www.carehome.co.uk/carehome.cfm/searchazref/20003006OAKA.