A London school has been criticised by the Children's Food Trust for putting children in ‘lunch isolation' if their parents fall behind with payments for school meals.
Free school Michaela Community School in Wembley, London sent a letter to a family informing them their child would sit in isolation at lunchtime if the outstanding balance was not cleared within a week.
The, deputy head of the school told parents their children would be given a sandwich and piece of fruit in place of their hot meal and dessert.
It said: "You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week your child will be placed into lunch isolation.
"They will receive a sandwich a piece of fruit only. They will spend the entire 60 minutes period in lunch isolation.
"Only when the entire outstanding sum is paid in full will they be allowed into family lunch with their classmates."
Linda Cregan, CEO of Children's Food Trust criticised the school's decision.
She said: "Children themselves tell us that how they feel about lunchtime can make or break their entire day at school. Being able to enjoy good food around a table with their friends, without having to rush, is the experience we want for every child.
"From children's very first tastes of solid food, the advice to parents is never to use food or mealtimes as a punishment and this should apply at school as well. Forcing a child to eat a different menu, away from their peers for reasons beyond their control is completely unacceptable."
"This is also about communicating well with parents - making every effort to keep them informed about how to pay, when to pay and what to do if they're struggling. If parents are in debt, it's important to explain to them very clearly about how this affects the school's budget, and to work with them to plan how they'll get back on track.
"Finally, this is another reminder of the importance of keeping good school meals affordable for everyone."
According to reports from the Daily Mail head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh said it was an attempt to encourage parents to "change their ways" and support their children.
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