Leading trade unionist condemns ‘lunch isolation’ letter
We publish below comments from Jane Nellist concerning the disgusting letter circulating on social media addressed to parents of children at a ‘Free school’. Jane is a member of the national executive of the National Union of Teachers and joint secretary of Coventry NUT. She writes here in a personal capacity.
‘Every day almost, there are articles about the disgraceful behaviour of Academy and Free School Headteachers and CEOs who take it upon themselves to abuse their power in our schools.
The latest incident is of a so-called ‘Superhead’ of a London Free School, Katharine Birbalsingh. She came to prominence in 2010 at the Tory Party Conference when she criticised the state education system, drawing on examples from her own school which resulted in her losing her job.
She went on to set up her own Free School and was praised by Michael Gove. Her most recent claim to noteriety is to punish pupils whose parents have fallen behind with lunch payments by segregating them in isolation and giving them only a sandwich and a piece of fruit as well as extra lessons.
It’s ironic that her Twitter profile (@Miss_Snuffy) states that she “believes in justice for the poor and discipline+traditional teaching = social mobility.” Her policies though mean that the pupils are being punished due to their financial situation which is completely unacceptable. The school incidentally does not allow pupils to take their own packed lunch which may be a cheaper option for many families on low wages but who do not qualify for free school meals.
Evidence shows that many children are going to school hungry and that having a breakfast and proper school lunch can help to ensure that children are more able to learn. By withdrawing these children from their friends and limiting their food, this head is stigmatising them and punishing them.
As a teacher, I believe that all pupils should have a free breakfast and free high quality lunch. We need to ensure that families have sufficient money to feed their children properly by ensuring that benefits and wages are raised above poverty levels.
This headteacher demonstrates all that is bad about the ethos of some schools that the Tories are praising as good models of education.
It’s time that we put an end to these educational ‘experiments’ and bring all Academies and Free Schools back under local authority control where they can be democratically accountable to the communities they serve.’