These are some comments that parents/carers made about lunchtimes.
“I have concerns regarding lunch time. I understand that a survey for hot school dinners has taken place and the issues raised have been addressed. However I feel that this is at the expense of the children who have packed lunches. My child is now given 10-15 minutes to eat lunch and is constantly told not to make a mess as lunch is in the boardroom. My child is asking for less food as feels under pressure to eat up and get out as the pack lunch children are told to hurry up while eating. I find this totally unacceptable and was about to speak to those concerned about this but hopefully this comment will be passed along.”
“To an extent - she has school dinners, but regularly my girls ask for packed lunches, because their friends are allowed chocolate bars and processed food. She also states that if a child is slower than their peers at eating they can end up being left on their table alone/with older groups. In other schools I have worked there is often the policy to encourage social interaction, waiting and manners at a table, ie waiting until the majority have finished before they leave. By allowing children to leave ad hoc I think disregards these positive messages and lessons. I appreciate the volume of students needing to be in the hall so I'm sure there is no right or easy solution.”
“I don't think the catering provider, County Caterers does as much as it could to really promote healthy eating and particularly a varied diet. However, I have made those views known on the catering survey.”
Clearly, lunchtimes have been a topical issue since September with the new government policy of free school meals to ‘infants’. This has had a massive impact on the kitchen – as well as Mrs. Marwood and her team. We are now cooking anything up to 150 dinners from a room designed as a servery every day, compared to approximately 90 meals before September. Recently, it has been confirmed that (subject to planning approval) we will be building a kitchen extension over the summer months in order to cope with the additional numbers that this policy is forcing on us.
This change has taken us a few months to iron out initial problems with routines and timings. It has been very difficult to get this many dinners served and eaten within an hour and with only space for 68 children to be sat simultaneously, hence the use of the training room (aka boardroom) for packed lunches.
However, we do believe that by Christmas the problems that are contained in the above text have been ironed out. The only issues that we haven’t been able to solve are regarding the contents of packed lunches and waiting until all pupils have eaten their lunch before leaving the hall. As regards packed lunches, the school has no jurisdiction over what can be brought into school in a packed lunch box. However, we will try to encourage healthier choices in the future if this is causing parents/carers problems at home. With respect to lunchtime ‘manners’, we would love to enforce a more family atmosphere which would include waiting until all children have finished their lunch before leaving the table. Unfortunately, the logistics of getting 200+ children through their lunch before 1.00pm prevents us from implementing this.
Please do not hesitate to contact the school if any of the above issues are still a concern (or any others, for that matter).