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Banning packed lunches is pointless and will undermine parents' respect for teachers

PUBLISHED: 15:32 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:32 18 December 2019

Steve Downes says banning packed lunches from schools is pointless. Picture PA.

Steve Downes says banning packed lunches from schools is pointless. Picture PA.

Archant

Teachers go to university and are then trained to be experts at...teaching.

Sam Gravener, inset, has launched a petition against the decision of Heart Education Trust to ban packed lunches: Picture: ArchantSam Gravener, inset, has launched a petition against the decision of Heart Education Trust to ban packed lunches: Picture: Archant

That means they should know how to educate our children and grandchildren - a job that all but the most clingy parents are happy to sub-contract to them.

They are not nutritionists. Nor are they the parents.

So, unless or until people who run schools also have degrees in nutrition and certificates proving they are the legal parents of our children, they can keep their hands off our lunchboxes.

But no, not at four Norfolk schools, where they have nothing better to do than to impose a post-New Year ban on packed lunches.

Are these schools also dictator academies, where staff are taught how to rule by decree?

It is said that power corrupts, so perhaps school uniform rules and walking in corridors are no longer enough to satisfy them - there's a powerful need to control diet, too.

It's as though they are gathering to think of new ways to tyrannise families.

Maybe they will soon try to impose a dress code on parents, or install CCTV cameras in homes to make sure families are eating meals at the table.

I'm not serious about some of this, by the way, just in case anyone can't spot when hyperbole is being used to make a point.

I can also acknowledge the upside of not having to make packed lunches, which is a complete faff.

Those amazing super-parents who get them all sorted the evening before and sashay onto the school run perfectly turned out and tranquil are rare and rather tedious: my recollection is that most people sort the pack-ups at the last minute, cramming them into the schoolbags as the children dash out of the door.

First, find the lunchboxes, then empty them and wash them out.

Butter the bread, find the slices of ham and cheese, cling-wrap the sandwiches, get juice boxes out of the fridge, guiltily slip in a chocolate bar and a bag of crisps, then assuage the guilt with an apple or a banana.

Before that there is, of course, the shopping bit: catering for different children's tastes, balancing the diet, and keeping it all affordable.

But that is our choice. We can decide whether to do a packed lunch or give dinner money.

We can also decide whether our children spend their spare time looking at screens, roaming the streets or wearing clothes that are not ethically sourced.

Mostly, though, we make the right choices, and should be trusted to do so.

One of the keys to being a successful teacher or school leader is to win over the bulk of the parents.

If they like you, the positivity works through to the children, and gives staff that vital breathing space when they have to be tough.

Banning packed lunches is like picking a fight or starting an argument in an empty room - it's pointless and counterproductive. It will undermine parents' respect for the teachers and leaders, breed resentment and get the poisonous schoolgate tongues wagging.

All but the most negligent of parents know the importance of giving their children a balanced diet.

They do their best, sometimes falling short (and feeling very guilty), but overall succeeding in raising well-nourished youngsters.

Human beings are getting taller, stronger and living longer. People no longer have all of their teeth pulled out on their 21st birthday, nor have bandy legs from rickets.

That has all happened without teachers nosing around in lunchboxes or banning them.

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