School dinners…..the whole story?
An article by Sian To over at Mummy Tips earlier this week started quite a debate. It was about the ‘voluntary contributions’ asked for by schools. Then it led into comments about school dinners – the quality of them and the cost. From the number and vociferous nature of some of the comments, both areas are close to parents concerns.
Let’s take school dinners first. Jamie Oliver did a grand job exposing the deficiencies in the meals that were provided by schools and created much stress and angst for school cooks who had to re-learn (in some cases) the protein and calorific value of food. Together with menu design and total cost of around £1.90, I can tell you that a school kitchen was not the calmest of places to be a couple of years ago!
For some schools though, this change in menu has resulted in a huge increase in the waste produced as many children will not eat what is presented. This not necessarily because of the quality but because they have not tasted it before. Salads, vegetables and ‘green’ things have not been part of their repertoire at meal times. Try as they might, lunch time supervisors just cannot tempt some children to even try and neither should they in my opinion. It is not for schools to transform society’s eating habits, only to encourage a healthy life style that is grounded at home.
For parents who are concerned about the quality of food available at lunch time I would urge you to go and constructively discuss the menus with the schools. It would be really useful for schools to know what parents and children would like and be given the opportunity to explain the strict guidelines they are now working within.
As for ‘voluntary contributions’ schools are not permitted to charge for trips and activities. There is a wealth of places to take children as well as a variety of visitors who are making careers out of school visits. Recent governments have all stressed the need for the curriculum to be enriched and to give children experiences beyond the classroom. Sadly they all cost money and that is something that most schools do not have in abundance.
Is it perhaps a reflection on society that it is down to schools to provide that enrichment? Do parents take children out and about as they did before or is it a case of there is too much choice? Whatever it is, it is causing schools a headache to find both time and money for many of these trips hence the ‘voluntary contributions’.
Schools do have a duty to let parents know what the money is for and to give plenty of notice for it to be collected. That goes for any request from school – let parents know in good time as many of them do want to engage but have busy lives to organize. Whether it is trips or school dinners, communication is key to developing a good relationship with parents.
What is your beef about school dinners? How good is the communication between school and parents?