A School Threatened To Put A Child In Isolation Because Of Late Lunch Payments

    The mother of the pupil has since removed her son from the school.

    A secondary school in Wembley, north London, threatened to place a child in "lunch isolation" if his parent didn't pay an overdue school meal fee.

    Dionne Kelly, a single parent and unemployed care worker, said she received a letter from deputy head Barry Smith at Michaela community school after she fell behind on this term's £75 upfront meal payment for her 12-year-old son Reon.

    The warning letter said pupils whose parents didn't pay the full amount – which works out at £2.50 a day – would be made to eat lunch on their own for one hour, away from their peers.

    Smith said the child would be provided with a sandwich and a piece of fruit instead of a hot meal like other pupils.

    Speaking to the Daily Mail, Kelly said: "I found the letter quite threatening. Isolating children for their parents not paying upfront is degrading. It's embarrassing for poor families."

    Kelly said she has since removed her child from the school, which opened in 2014 under the government's flagship free schools programme.

    A copy of the letter was shared on social media.

    Here's a copy of the letter sent to parents:

    Michaela – which prides itself on a "private school ethos" without the fees, and has strict guidelines on behaviour – stresses its family-style lunch hour is an important part of the day for pupils. On the school website, it says that only "Michaela-owned" food is allowed to be eaten on school grounds, not packed lunches.

    One section on the site reads: "Each table is led by an adult or a pupil who has been awarded the status of 'Future Leader'. Each pupil has their own specified role at lunch. Each day a topic for discussion is set. Each day we celebrate acts of kindness as a whole school community. Family lunch is squarely focussed upon building strong common values and a sense of school community."

    It later adds: "Lunch provides a wonderful opportunity to review the adventures of Odysseus or the properties of a cell membrane."

    Katharine Birbalsingh, the headteacher at Michaela community school, told the Daily Mail that putting children in isolation over late lunch payments was an attempt to encourage parents to "change their ways" and support their children.

    "The letter from Barry Smith…was sent in an attempt to encourage mum to change her ways and support her son by paying for his food," Birbalsingh said. "The vast majority of secondary schools use isolation to discipline children."

    In 2010 Birbalsingh was criticised for describing the British education system as "fundamentally broken" and "blinded by leftist ideology" at a Conservative conference.

    BuzzFeed News has contacted Michaela community school for a comment.

    Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Rossalyn Warren at rossalyn.warren@buzzfeed.com.

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