Michaela Free School in Wembley, London, has caused controversy by putting pupils into ‘lunch isolation’ if parents fail to pay for their children’s school meals.
According to the school, pupils in lunch isolation “will receive a sandwich and a piece of fruit only. They will spend the entire 60-minute period in lunch isolation. Only when the entire outstanding amount is paid in full will they be allowed into family lunch with their classmates.”
This seems like a form of psychological harm, inflicted on the pupils.
More controversial still – it seems to This Writer – is the attitude of the school’s head teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh.
“We’ve got three families in the whole of the school where this is the case. They are all families who are betraying their children. One we are reporting to social services,” Ms Birbalsingh told The Guardian.
“Betraying their children?”
That’s an extreme thing to say about people who haven’t been able to speak up for themselves.
And the mother who raised the issue in the first place – in the Daily Mail – claims she paid up the arrears before receiving Ms Birbalsingh’s letter demanding the money – but her child was put through the punishment anyway.
The pupil in question left Michaela at the end of the summer term.
Michaela School, which seems to revel in the motto ‘Knowledge is Power’, also seems to revel in the exercise of power over its pupils.
“Those children would leave school illiterate if they were at any other schools. At our school that is not the case,” said Ms Birbalsingh.
“Why? Because we force them to go to reading club after school, we force them to do their homework, and we also, during the time we take them out of family lunch, do extra work with them so that they are catching up.” [Bolding mine]
In this day and age, doesn’t that signify mistreatment by multiple means?
It seems clear that Ms Birbalsingh is forceful in defending her policy, but one has to wonder, if this is how her school uses its power over other people’s children…
What else might go on behind this school’s closed doors, if she is allowed to continue?
The head of a London secondary school that places pupils in “lunch isolation” if their parents don’t pay for school meals is unapologetic over the policy, arguing that parents who refuse to pay are betraying their children’s education.
Katharine Birbalsingh, the head of Michaela community school in north-west London who imposed the policy, argued that the children affected were from dysfunctional homes and needed the school’s support.
“Should we charge a poor single mum twice so she can pay for Jonny just because she has a sense of personal responsibility and Jonny’s mother doesn’t?” Birbalsingh said.
“Free school meals looks after the poorest. Even then we have all sorts of systems for people who really are in financial need, and I mean the real ones. I don’t mean the ones who are playing the system, trying to get other poor families to pay for their child’s food.”
The controversy surfaced after the Daily Mail reported that a parent of a pupil received a letter from the school’s deputy head saying: “You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week your child will be placed in lunch isolation.”
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