School staff have been branded ‘heavy-handed’ for inspecting pupils’ packed lunches daily with rubber gloves.
The dispute comes after a primary’s decision to ban sausage rolls from lunchboxes sparked a major debate on healthy eating in schools last week.
One mother-of-four has now vowed to launch a petition urging Westgate Primary School to review its policy.
She says the school, in Otley, West Yorkshire, should offer guidance without discriminating others in a way that doesn’t ‘undermine’ parents.
The mother, who does not wish to be named, said: ‘The teaching assistants take at least half-an-hour inspecting children’s packed lunches in the morning while wearing rubber gloves.
‘Kids as young as eight are being given the responsibility to ‘advise’ and tell on their friends if they have inappropriate items in their lunch.
‘If an item is removed it is bagged-up with the child’s name and given to parents at the end of the day.
‘The school says lunches have improved, they have, but at the expense of parents and children who are scared stiff of taking the wrong thing.’
The school currently uses a traffic light system, featuring foods listed in red, amber and green categories.
The policy also includes unhealthy snacks being bagged-up and handed back to parents.
- Red items that are banned include crisps and cereal bars.
- Amber includes foods that are allowed occasionally, such as sausage rolls and plain biscuits.
- Green foods, like meat and vegetables, can feature as often as parents choose.
The mother, who works full-time, says she often has to go out late at night if she realises she has run out of green or amber food items.
She said: ‘It’s double standards, as children with these healthy packed lunches can be sat next to a child having hot school dinners who is eating sponge pudding and custard.
‘How do you explain that to a six-year-old who has just had a cereal bar taken off him?’
Headteacher Helen Carpenter said of the policy which began in September 2016: ‘Encouraging healthy eating amongst our pupils is really important to us here at Westgate Primary School.
‘We have adopted a packed lunch policy, like many other schools, with a view to ensuring our pupils have a healthy, balanced and nutritious lunch.
‘The policy is designed to support the different needs that exist within families including budget and time constraints and we take a flexible approach in individual cases where children have significant food issues.
‘We only remove items with high fat or sugar content and replace with a healthy alternative.
‘The majority of our parents are very supportive of this policy and since it was introduced there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of fruit and vegetables in packed lunches.’
The Government sets national healthy eating standards for most schools in the country.
They ban more than two portions of deep-fried, battered or breaded food a week, as well as chocolates or sweets in vending machines, but schools are able to set their own policies on packed lunches.