Eating Packed Lunch At School Is Not For Free Anymore

Parents prepare packed lunch for their kids to minimize expenses, but state schools in England are apparently charging students as much as $2.57 or £1.80 daily even if they bring their own food to the dining hall. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) discovered the practice and said that the situation is a disgrace.

"Now just sitting in a dining hall and unwrapping your sandwiches is considered to be an optional extra," said NASUWT deputy general Patrick Roach, via Times Education Supplement. "Parents should be appalled in just the same way that we're appalled."

The practice was discovered among primary and secondary schools in England when the NASUWT conducted a survey among parents and students. The charges vary per school, but the implication is the same: children can no longer eat their packed lunch for free in school.

Schools justify payments for packed lunch

"Schools are justifying it by saying, 'you're having to be supervised to eat your lunch and therefore if you're not having a school meal, you've got to contribute towards that supervision because you'll be in the dining room, sitting there'," said NASUWT secretary general Chris Keates, via Huffington Post. She also reiterated that the government is to be held responsible for this oversight because it keeps cutting the budget for school funding.

The NASUWT's concern is that more schools might do the same practice if these institutions are squeezed of their funds further. The union also sees problems about the government not clearly setting out rules about "what schools can and cannot charge for," Keates adds.

Department of Education cites practice 'unacceptable'

Mirror reports that a Department of Education spokesperson said paying for packed lunch is "absolutely unacceptable."  An investigation will have to be undertaken to keep school policy loopholes in check.

The news comes as 90 percent of headmasters believe that funding affects the quality of education that the school provides as reforms and reorganizations are changing the system regularly, per Independent. Many of those who attend public schools come from poor families too, when this should be where the children are supposed to find their "safety net," per Brian Cookson, a teacher and NASUWT member. 

"School was the safety net for these children because they could access sports facilities, they could access music, they could access their education and it wasn't anything to do with money," Cookson said in the reports.

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