Paignton school refuses child lunch over £1.75 debt

  • 12 June 2013
  • From the section Devon
Media captionGary Lynn said the move was "completely unacceptable"

A father has taken both of his children out of a Devon primary school after one was refused lunch because the family owed £1.75.

Gary Lynn, who has also resigned as a governor at Hayes Primary School in Paignton, accused the school of "physical and emotional neglect" reminiscent of Oliver Twist.

He said his 11-year-old-son, Jacob, was in tears after being refused the meal.

The school said its kitchen staff were "abiding by the rules".

Given an apple

Mr Lynn accused the school of creating a policy which "looks at using a child as a weapon in case any parent dares to default on a single day's payment".

He said: "When he was expecting to get served he was told he wouldn't be allowed a meal. He burst into tears.

"He went to sit down and one of the mealtime assistants brought over an apple because she felt sorry for him.

"I was completely outraged. I hadn't had any teacher come to tell me there was an issue. I found it horrific."

In an internal response, seen by BBC News, Sean Hindle, business manager at the academy-status school, said: "The kitchen were abiding by school rules.

"They normally phone parents to let them know that their account doesn't have any money, and that their child won't get a lunch that day unless the account is credited."

Mr Lynn said: "I hold my hand up. I usually put £10 on at a time. That's my fault. But for them to take that course of action with my son seems incredible."

He added he was searching for an alternative school.

Image caption Hayes Primary School said it regretted the distress the incident caused

Katherine Tompkins, the head teacher of Tor Bridge Primary School in Plymouth, said: "We don't use the same payment system. We wouldn't have refused the child a meal.

"We would have made all efforts to ensure they had something to eat."

Veronica Prior, the kitchen manager at St Mary's School in Plympton, Devon, said: "I would never let any of the children go out of that hall without food. I think it's pretty disgusting. Whoever did it should be sacked."

A statement released by the school's governors said the rule was introduced to prevent "significant numbers of previous occurrences of late payments and bad debts on school meals".

It went on to say: "Mr and Mrs Lynn were notified on three occasions prior to the mealtime of interest that their debt was due and that their son would not receive a meal if the debt remained unpaid."

Mr Lynn said the first time he was told about the problem was last Friday.

The school said while it regretted the distress the incident had caused, it was "disappointed that it has been portrayed by this parent to have been fully responsible for withholding a meal from him".

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