A father has taken both of his children out of a primary school after one was refused lunch because the family owed £1.75.
Gary Lynn compared the actions of Hayes Primary School in Paignton, Devon, to something akin to Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist.
He said his 11-year-old-son Jacob was in tears after being refused the meal because of the debt. Mr Lynn, who has also resigned as a parent governor after five years, said staff did not tell him or his wife about the debt –something the school disputes. Mr Lynn said one of the assistants took pity on his son and gave him an apple. “I was completely outraged for the sake of a £1.75 in debt, where I hadn’t had any teacher come to tell me there was an issue around that.”
He acknowledged that the debt was his fault, but added: “I would expect to be hauled over the coals by the teachers in the school and told that shouldn’t happen. But for them to take that course of action with my son – who has no blame in this and is the innocent party – and not to provide him with a dinner seems incredible. To turn around and to say ‘your child isn’t going to get fed today’ is incredible and dates back to the 19th century.”
The governors of Hayes Primary School said Mr and Mrs Lynn had been notified three times about the debt. “Owing to significant numbers of previous occurrences of late payments and bad debts on school meals – a matter Mr Lynn as vice-chair of the governing body’s finance committee was well aware of – the school had agreed to limit provision to one ‘meal of grace’, where a child is fed only on the first occasion of a school meal not having been paid for, thus accounting for parental oversight,” they said in a statement.
“Mr and Mrs Lynn were notified on three occasions prior to the mealtime of interest that their debt was due and that their son would not receive a meal if the debt remained unpaid. Such notification had given the Lynns timely opportunity either to settle their debt or alternatively to provide their son with a packed lunch. Whilst the school regrets the distress caused to the Lynns’ son, it is disappointed that it has been portrayed by this parent to have been fully responsible for withholding a meal from him.”