Dagenham school policy criticised after boy, 8, isn’t given lunch

Nicola Cole with her son Liam

Nicola Cole with her son Liam - Credit: Archant

A mum whose eight-year-old son wasn’t given lunch because she forgot to top up his account is calling for the school to change its policy.

Liam Walker, who attends Roding Primary School in Dagenham, was forced to get by on just an apple due to the ParentPay account mix-up – despite one of his sisters in another class having a £12 balance.

His mum, Nicola Cole, only realised that he hadn’t been fed when he came home from the Cannington Road school on Tuesday last week.

The 33-year-old, who lives in nearby Hewett Road, says she would have dropped in some lunch for Liam if someone at the school had contacted her.

“They sent him home with a letter saying he didn’t have a balance, so he didn’t get lunch,” she explained.

“They didn’t call me or anything – it’s disgusting. I know there are parents that don’t pay and expect their children to be fed but I’m not one of them.”

When Nicola complained to the deputy headteacher she was told that the school’s website states that meals would not be provided for children with insufficient funds and parents will not be phoned to remind them to top up their accounts.

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“They just said ‘that’s our policy’, which I think is disgusting and should be changed,” Nicola, a mum-of-six, said. “It’s no other school’s policy that I’m aware of. None of this will change anything for my son, but I would not want any other child not to be fed.”

A spokesman for the school noted that Liam was given a free lunch the day before “in the hope that mum would have had time to top up the account”.

He said a text message was sent reminding parents to top up accounts before term started.

“Parents have a responsibility to ensure their children’s cards are topped up and where they have not done this they should alert the school,” he added.

“It is unfair on parents who have taken the time to do the right thing – as we do not expect them to be paying while others choose not to.”