Headteacher refuses to feed kids who are 'more than a penny in debt to school'

Pupils whose meal accounts are more than a penny in debt at a school will be left without food at lunchtime.

The severe warning was issued in a letter to parents sent by Neil Foden – the strategic head of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle in Penygroes, Gwynedd – as part of an approach recommended by the local council.

The ultimatum said the school cook had been instructed not to give food to any pupil ‘if their debt has not been cleared, or, in the future, to children whose accounts do not have enough money to pay for lunch’.

A deadline of November 19 has been set for parents to get their children’s accounts up to date.

The letter, which has sparked fury among parents, stated the Welsh school had run up debts totalling more than £1,800 at the end of last year and that was the reason behind the drastic measures.

It was accumulated by some 70 families, with nine parents owing more than £50 and three of them owing more than £100.

Mr Fodden highlighted parents whose accounts were in debt were texted on a weekly basis but, in most cases, there was no response and some debts even increased.


He said: ‘Closer inspection revealed that this was because a handful of pupils had run up debts totalling more than £1,800.

‘Unfortunately, this means that I have had to take the following steps.

‘All debts over £10 will be transferred to the authority and parents will be invoiced by the council.

‘All debts of over £0.01 will receive a message from the school to clear debts and credit the system by Friday, November 19.’

The headteacher then threatened further measures, including refusing to serve children at the school.

He apologised for the approach, which has been branded as ‘absolutely disgraceful’ by parents.

But Mr Foden argued that the ‘scale of the default means that something clearly has to be done’.

The email has been shared on social media and attracted widespread criticism.

Some pointed out ‘serious questions’ should be asked about why the deficit was left to grow so much in the first place, adding ‘a lack of administration should not be a reason for a children to be humiliated at lunchtime’.

One parent, Darren Owen, said: ‘Absolutely shocking, if there’s a debt by the child the cook has been instructed to not let that child eat that day.

‘What the hell is wrong with the system, the child might not know mam and dad are struggling to pay.

‘It might be the only food that child eats that day, who the hell proofread this email being sent out!’

In a statement following the outrage, Mr Foden confirmed pupils from the most financially disadvantaged families are eligible for free school meals and they are automatically credited with a daily allowance.

He added: ‘Any parent in genuine financial difficulty should write to their child’s Head of Year in order that we may see how best to assist.

‘We understand that many families have experienced financial difficulty during the pandemic and we are not unsympathetic.

‘However, any shortfall in the budget for school meals will have to be made up by the school which could mean fewer books and resources for all pupils  because of debts run up by a few.’

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