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…