Thursday, February 27, 2020

Free school meals and stigma

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At Welland Park College, Market Harborough, in 1973 and 1974, those of us who received free school meals had our names ticked off in a register before we chose our lunch.

I have never been able to convince myself that this served any purpose beyond public humiliation.

What really makes me sad, though, is that this sort of thing is still going on today.

Going hungry? - a 2012 report from the Child Poverty Action Group - found that, in most secondary schools and some primaries, children receiving free school meals did not receive a meal but an  allowance to spend at the canteen.

But one in seven of them reported that their allowance did not allow them to purchase a full meal.

One pupil said:
"I think that the system honestly is a bit crap because you don’t know how much you have spent and if you overspend, you’re given detention and you have to pay back what you spent!"
You had better be psychic if you are a poor child.

In 2018 iNews reported:
Scottish school pupils from poorer backgrounds are going hungry because they are too embarrassed to claim free school meals, according to a report published on Thursday. 
Some children feel 'socially segregated' by the current system which sets them out as different from their peers, the inquiry into school poverty by a Scottish Parliament committee found.
The paper quoted one pupil as saying:
“It makes me feel like part of an underclass and I wish everyone ate their lunch together."
And last year Citizens UK published a report on the situation in the North East of England.

It.found that:
A common concern of pupils on free school meals - and a key reason why some do not take them up - is that the way they are delivered can set them apart from their peers, stigmatising them for being poor.
If you are a school governor, please make sure that this nonsense is not going on in your school.

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