Debate: Should teachers spy on pupils' meals?

A Commons committee has said that parents are failing to provide their children with healthy packed lunches
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YES

PETER WINDER

Headmaster, Wolsey Junior

I DON'T agree with "spying", but as in loco parentis, teachers need to take an interest in everything children do and that includes what they eat. In 1996 we did a trial with a class of eight-year-olds, selling them fresh fruit instead of junk food at break times. It had a significant impact. They were calmer and teachers were able to spend more time teaching rather than resolving conflicts. We've now extended this to the whole school, and the tuck shop stocks only fruit. The kids haven't complained and in fact are buying more. With a dietician, school nurse, and our health co-ordinator we've held sessions to teach parents about nutritional values in packed lunches. It's made a huge difference in making the children more receptive to teaching and has led to a higher standard.

NO

ANNABEL KARMEL

Children's cookery writer

IT'S REALLY down to the parents to provide healthy lunch boxes for their children. Parents need to involve their children in planning meals and find out exactly what they like to eat. Meals mustn't take too long to eat - it helps if you peel fruit, for example - and soups are good for winter, even shop-made varieties. A nutritious meal at lunchtime is very important, otherwise the children can't concentrate properly. It would be a good idea if schools gave out information leaflets to everybody rather than just singling out particular children. I know many parents lack time, so I've thought up some meals that can be made from last night's dinner and which can be found on my website, www.learnfree.co.uk

SOPHY COLLIS-ARNOLD

Aged 9

I THINK it's a good idea if teachers help mums make nice pack lunches. My mum's a teacher and she makes me lunch every day. I've been having packed lunches for a term now. I prefer it as I can talk to my mum about it and tell her what I'd like to eat. I normally have a cucumber sandwich, raisins, crisps and orange juice. Sometime I might have a ham and coleslaw sandwich or hummus and a yoghurt. My friends have the same type of thing and they like packed lunches too. We normally eat everything, except sometimes we swap crisps. I don't know much about healthy foods, but I know you shouldn't eat too much chocolate. I don't like chips, because they're too greasy, but I like hamburgers. I like fruit too, especially bananas, apples and kiwi fruit.

NO

NICOLE WILMSHURST

Mother

THE IDEA that MPs are urging teachers to "spy" on children's lunch boxes illustrates how little faith they have in parents. Most parents do give their children healthy, balanced packed lunches including things like cheese, yoghurt and fruit. Even if teachers do check to make sure lunches are nutritionally balanced, they cannot force a child to eat all the good stuff. My daughter always took fruit to school, but didn't always eat it. It's important that children are able to sit together to eat so there isn't peer pressure to have packed lunches. MPs should concentrate on offering good quality, tempting, healthy, fun food that children want to eat rather than getting teachers to snoop around in their lunch boxes.

NO

DR LIAM FOX

Shadow Health Secretary

IT'S NOT the place of teachers to be opening lunch boxes and "spying". It's the duty of parents to ensure that their children are properly fed. This idea is taking us too far into the nanny state environment propagated by the Labour Government. There is a role for teachers to play in giving advice to children about what foods are more nutritious and parents need to be educated about the value of good old-fashioned healthy diets, but the Government could do this by way of free leaflets in surgeries and libraries. This Government is far too fond of imposing things. Teachers already have quite sufficient demands on their time and if left to their own devices would have enough good sense to tackle the problem of children's meals without the need for a directive.

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