Marcus Rashford throws weight behind parents in Dyffryn Nantlle school meal row
Manchester United football star Marcus Rashford has intervened after a headteacher in the north of Wales wrote to parents to tell them children wouldn’t be fed in they were more than a penny in debt.
In a letter to parents, Neil Foden, the strategic head of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle in Penygroes, Gwynedd, said the school cook had been told not to give food to any child “if their debt has not been cleared, or, in the future, to children whose accounts do not have enough money to pay for lunch”.
Marcus Rashford responded on social media to call on the school to be “more understanding”.
The 24-year-old was recognised with an MBE earlier this week for his drive to ensure no child in need went hungry during the pandemic.
Posting a picture of the letter sent by the headteacher on Twitter, the footballer asked: “Has the pandemic not taught us anything? Can we not be understanding? Come on now…”
“For many children, lunch at school is the only meal they’ll get.”
Has the pandemic not taught us anything? Can we not be understanding? Come on now… https://t.co/kGKbgaEbhs
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) November 11, 2021
The letter said that parents have been set a deadline of November 19 to get their children’s accounts up to date. The reason given for this was that there was a deficit in the school meals budget at the end of the last half term.
Neil Foden apologised for the approach but said the “scale of the default means that something clearly has to be done”.
“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,” he said.
“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 19th.”
Gwynedd Council has since responded to the row, saying that children would not be denied meals.
“As a Council, we do not operate a blanket policy of refusing meals to pupils. We apologise for any confusion or concern caused by the recent message sent to parents and will discuss this matter directly with the school.
“We are eager to ensure that every pupil have a school meal or packed lunch every day.
“We would urge any parents or guardians who are having difficulty in paying for their child’s school meals to contact the Education Department or school directly. Their child may be entitled to free school meals.
“In terms of payment of school meals, an online system has been introduced on which parents should ensure that sufficient funds are in place to pay for their child’s school meals.
“The payment system offers some flexibility for parents who may for whatever reason not be able to make payment for a short period of time. Reminder messages are sent as required to ensure that no significant debts are incurred.”
But the email has been shared on social media and has been criticised by angry parents.
One parent said: “Absolutely shocking. What the hell’s wrong with system, the child might not know mam and dad are struggling to pay, it might be the only food that child eats that day.”
Another said: “If they would actually let you pay your £1.60 bill Without having to pay a min payment of £10, would be a help. Seriously!”