A six-year-old boy who went to school with a bag of Mini Cheddars in his packed lunch has been suspended for four days after teachers said it contravened its healthy eating policy.
Riley Pearson, from Colnbrook, near Slough, was excluded from Colnbrook C of E Primary School after teachers discovered the snack and called in his parents.
After a meeting with headmaster Jeremy Meek, they were sent a letter telling them Riley would be excluded from Wednesday until Monday because he had been 'continuously breaking school rules'.
No further information at this point on what rules he has broken. Is he being excluded for other misdemeanours?
The school, which was placed in special measures after Ofsted inspectors deemed it 'inadequate' in 2012, introduced a healthy eating policy at the start of term.
This seems to suggest that OFSTED wanted the school to set up the healthy eating policy. I wish OFSTED did judge schools in their healthy eating but they don't. At present they worry about the test results and not about the whole child. That being said I do know the new guidelines from OFSTED do include commenting on the atmosphere in the dining room (not the quality of packed lunches and school meals).
A letter was sent to parents saying that from 14 January, packed lunches should be 'healthy and balanced'.
It would be interesting to see what this letter said. Schools I have worked with in the past have found ways of explaining to parents what is expected without being confrontational. I have noted the word "should" is from the Mail not the school.
Parents were told: 'Chocolate, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks are not allowed.
Well said, but then again a balance is also needed. At Ashton Vale, because chips are still served on a Friday for school meals, we allow crisps on a Friday. Everything in moderation.
'If your child's lunchbox is unhealthy and unbalanced they will be provided with a school lunch for which you will be charged.'
That is a bold step to take, but can easily backfire as you are offering confrontation. Other options include doing a snack swap (where children swap an unhealthy snack for a piece of fruit in the school) or do as I do "I know you (the child) didn't pack this lunch and I know you didn't want that packet of crisps in there, so put them away and take them home."
Today Riley's mother, airport shuttle worker Natalie Mardle, 24, said: 'We just do not see how they have the right to tell us what we can feed our son.
Not a right, but as a teacher I always put the child's health first and if I feel I can improve their life I would do my upmost to do that. Would Natalie be saying "The school does not have a right to tell us how to teach our son to read. The school does not have a right to tell us how to teach our son to play sport."?
'If anything, Riley is underweight and could do with putting on a few pounds.'
Good to see his parents are concerned about his health, but have they been advised that he is underweight by a health practitioner or is it just their own view.
Miss Mardle, who is expecting her fourth child, added: 'Having a balanced diet also includes eating some carbohydrates, sugars and fats
Absolutely, but balanced in the correct ratios, as in The eatwell plate.
'Surely the headteacher has better things to do with his time than search lunchboxes?'
"Searching lunchboxes." That is a phrase that does upset me. I have come across schools where the Head / staff have indeed searched lunchboxes secretly . This is wrong and should be stopped. My own approach, and what I have introduced into Bristol Healthy Schools is to ask the child if they would like to show their lunchbox. This could be so they could get a raffle ticket for the lunchbox promotion (if they want to be involved) or to help us complete a lunchbox survey being undertaken by fellow pupils. In both cases the child is welcome to say no and that is fine.
But, has the Head searched the lunchboxes? How did he find out that Riley's lunchbox wasn't up to scratch?
Riley's parents, who both work at nearby Heathrow Airport, will be attending a meeting with the head on Tuesday to learn whether their son can return to the 290-pupil school.
Headteacher Mr Meek said the school had one family who 'do not agree with the policy.'
He said: 'We have had a wonderful response and the parents and children are on board and pleased with the way the policy has been impacted on our pupils.
"We cannot talk about individual circumstances, but there is one family who are not prepared to support the policy.
'We are in discussions with them about how we move it forward. We have excluded [the pupil] for four days due to lack of support for the policy."
At Ashton Vale we have never excluded a pupil due to their parent's views or disagreement with our school policies. This really doesn't sound like the school are doing their best to move it forward.
'It is to avoid putting the children in a difficult situation. If the policy is not being abided by, then that potentially harms that pupil."
So often we have had incidences where a child has not followed our healthy eating policy at Ashton Vale, and it has never harmed that pupil. They have never been given a hard time by fellow pupils. That being said, so often the reluctant healthy eaters are swayed by peer pressure when they see that their classmates are all getting praise for their eating habits and performing better in school and at sport.
As a teacher, I was all ready to support the school and think that their was more to this story than was being reported. Were they being misquoted?
Then the letter from the school to the parents is shown. Exhibit A:
"Threatened to send Riley to school with just a banana and water." Now, that isn't really something to be worried about is it?
I have been threatened with "I have a large machete at home and I can bring it to school." (comment directed towards me at a parents' evening). Mr Pearson's behaviour is not threatening.
But what concerns me most is that Riley, who seems to have been mostly actually forgotten in all this, is being punished because of the attitude of his parents. Now, whether you agree or disagree with the parents stance, what should not be overlooked is that Riley is being excluded because of his parents. Is that right?
If you are in a similar situation to this at your school PLEASE contact me, I can help, I can offer ways around this situation so that you don't end up in the same scenario.
Contact me at email@example.com 07906 633 167
Also Ashton Vale Primary have all of the lunchbox resources you need to encourage a healthy packed lunch on their website. They can all be downloaded for free. what are you waiting for?