End the bullying over free school meals…

According to an article in the Huffington Post (where there’s a shorter version of this), up to half a million children a day, says the Children’s  Society, are failing to take up free school meals out of a fear of bullying.

The idea of free school meals being a cause of bullying both baffles and dismays me in equal measure.

When I was at school, 1949-60, the system was transparent, and everyone knew who got free meals and who didn’t, but there was one major difference – nobody cared. It was accepted without question that some families were poor, and couldn’t afford school meals, and that was the end of the matter.

However, given that, these days, almost any subject you can conceive of can be seized upon as a provocation for bullying, and that being poor is, apparently, one of them (are we breeding a nation of psychopaths in the Cameron mould, for whom being poor is punishable?), I would have expected that there would be a degree of confidentiality built into the allocation process.

So why isn’t there?

When I was at school, lunch tickets were given out at the start of the last lesson before lunch, and free meal tickets were always white. Presumably, since who gets free meals is still common knowledge, the system hasn’t changed much, if at all.

It should change, though, and how hard would it be for everyone to get the same colour ticket? (Or, as some schools apparently use writsbands, keep those the same colour, too.) As long as a record is kept that tickets have been given out to the appropriate kids, there is no need for the actual ticket to indicate whether the meal is free or paid-for.

It is, after all, no business of the school canteen staff whose meal is free (unless there is some variation in the free meals, for which, if so, there can be no excuse), so as long as accurate records are kept, the information about who pays and who is free should be known only to the school administration.

Do that, and as long as the kids don’t mouth off about their free meals, nobody can be bullied on that basis.

It’s not rocket science…

4 thoughts on “End the bullying over free school meals…

  1. I can’t understand where the problems with free school meals come from. My sons both started getting free school meals when I was first laid off work on health grounds. In the primary school there were no hot meals provided but there was a packed lunch service, a few children who did not get free meals took them, as did all those who got them for free. No one knew except the school administration who paid and who was subsidized. In secondary school they have an electronic system, and parents can pay electronically for credits which go onto a “bank account”. The county pay in on a daily basis for those entitled, so non attendance means no free meal!
    I like this system for 2 reasons, the obvious one that no one knows who is getting free meals, but as important is the fact that the youngsters also get used to budgeting their dinner money. Payment is by Biometrics, so no risk of dinner money theft, and the account can be used, not only for Lunches but also in the coffee shop (Costas!) at break times. Thus 6th formers who are not in school all day can still have something warm while in school.

    • Fair comment, but you really don’t need an expensive electronics system (which many schools won’t be able to afford, and with the potential for going belly-up at inopportune moments – the more complex a system the greater the risk of component failure – who gets fed in that eventuality?), to achieve confidentiality.

      A properly administered paper-based system will work perfectly well – and won’t break. I know many people have a mania for computerising everything but, sometimes, a ledger is faster, and all you need.

  2. Hi Ron, when i was at school… (sept1947-july1956.) no one had tickets or wristbands.so no identifying objects at all other than if a kid noticed on a Monday morning when dinner money for the week was taken by our class teacher that little johnny didn’t pay anything. but then he would have to remember and watch to see if little johnny had dinners, a complicated thing when there were other things to think about like whether we liked or hated the next lesson. who we were gonna play and beat at marbles or skipping n playtime after dinner and ……….ugh! frogspawn for pudding.lol.
    bullying still went on but (as in my case) it was if you were skinny. or just because you didn’t fight n someone took it into their head to try and make you (a school lifetime’s work in the case of one girl i knew.lol)
    the teachers kept a register of those who had paid for or got free school dinners..collected every Monday morning by the class monitor from the secretary’s office. filled in by the teacher then returned by her witrh the money collected at morning break time. a much more civilised and less obvious way of doing it.

  3. Pingback: End the bullying over free school meals… | Welfare, Disability, Politics and People's Right's | Scoop.it

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