Friday, 5 November 2010

Scurvy and Rickets! Mass outbreak!

When it comes to school dinners, Michael Gove needs a good helping of sense | Carrie Quinlan | Comment is free |

I've only been doing this blog three days and already I am sick to death of the nonsense I am reading. Tristram Hunt saying Our Mutual Friend is just around the corner, a Guardian editorial telling us Jude Fawley wouldn't have liked the Browne Review, and now someone on CIF telling us that getting rid of school dinners will lead to kids having 'scurvy and rickets.'

Of course, the government aren't actually getting rid of Free School Meals. They are simply not extending them to poor working parents. People on unemployment benefits will still get them. So no-one will be worse off and nothing will change.

But according to the writer of this piece, this continuation of the status quo is going to lead to a mass outbreak of scurvy and rickets.

Utterly unbelievable.

As a side issue, let's consider for a moment the main nutritional problems that currently affect kids in Britain. You would think that a Guardian writer would have read The Spirit Level, which tells you that obesity is one of them, and that obesity correlates with 'poverty'. Clearly, this is not the sort of nutritional problem that comes from absolute poverty. To go back to everyone's favourite historical era, you didn't get kids waddling out of the workhouse. We are in a very different Britain from the one Guardian writers would like you to believe we live in.

At my last school, we had a phenomenal canteen run on Jamie Oliver lines, subsidised for all kids and free for the poorest. All the staff ate there because it was so good. When I started teaching there, I was so impressed by this and bought into the idea that it would hugely improve the kids' concentration and work. How naive I was.

Barely any of the kids ate there. The kids who could afford it nipped off down the chicken shop at lunch. The kids on FSM who couldn't regularly chose the unhealthiest or least-nutritious item on the menu - which was difficult, because the menu was so good. Often they'd turn down homecooked sausage and mash or lamb stew for a bowl of custard, or a slice of white bread. When there were chips on the menu, the kids would ask for them on their own, which the dinner staff weren't allowed to do. So the kids would get the whole meal, then eat the chips and leave everything else on their plates. When I walked into my classroom in the morning for register, the bin would already be overflowing with crisps packets, cans of soft drink, chocolate wrappers - and it would be all the kids eating them, including the ones on FSM.

Now, tell me how giving more of the poorer kids in that class a meal subsidy is going to solve that problem?

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