A council has apologised after an East Ayrshire primary school headteacher said pupils would be limited to "a plain sandwich and water" unless school meals bills were paid. Mauchline Primary School boss Lynne McLean issued the warning after children began turning up without enough money for lunch. But the move has been scrapped after furious parents complained to education chiefs. In a letter sent to parents, McLean said the school would “begin to take action to recover the debts”.
It said: “Unfortunately, we have become aware that a number of pupils are coming along for school meals but have not been given sufficient money by parents to pay for the meal. Sadly, this is a weekly occurrence and, as an example, last week 21 families accumulated an outstanding debt of £89.90 ranging from 90p to £18.” The letter went on to outline new payment rules at the Ayrshire school where lunches cost £1.90 a day.
It stated: “From Monday, December 10, to Friday, December 21, pupils who have not brought money to pay for meals will have to wait until the end of service when all paying pupils and free meals pupils have been served.” And McLean vowed to get even tougher in the new year. She warned: “From Monday, January 7, pupils who have not brought money to pay for meals will be provided with a plain sandwich and water to drink until the backdated debt has been paid, at which time they will again be provided with a full school meal.”
One parent said: “Threatening to give children only bread and water is acting as if we live in a third-world country and that’s all we can afford. It’s a complete over-reaction.” East Ayrshire education direction Graham Short has now admitted the letter was a mistake. He said: “It does not reflect East Ayrshire policy and has been withdrawn and an apology issued to all parents and carers by the head teacher. Its proposals have not been implemented. A blanket letter of this type should not have been issued. The policy of the authority is to ensure all children have access to a nutritious meal and are not stigmatised. Anyone in receipt of this letter has my fullest apology.”