Primary school staff spend 30 minutes a day searching pupils' packed lunches for banned snacks

A primary school has been criticised by parents because staff spend 30 minutes each day searching through pupils’ packed lunches with rubber gloves to confiscate snacks.

One mother-of-four is considering launching a petition against the bizarre practice at Westgate Primary School in Otley, West Yorkshire.

The school has a traffic light system in which in categorises food in red, amber and green categories.

If unhealthy snacks are found in lunch boxes during the daily half-hour searches, they are bagged up and handed back to parents.

The school has been searching packed lunches (Picture: Rex)

Under the system, green foods – such as meat and vegetables – are permitted all the time, while amber foods like sausage rolls and biscuits are allowed occasionally.

However, red items such as crisps and cereal bars are banned completely.


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The mother, who doesn’t want to be named, told the Yorkshire Post: ‘The teaching assistants take at least half-an-hour inspecting children’s packed lunches in the morning while wearing rubber gloves.

‘Kids as young as eight are being given the responsibility to “advise” and tell on their friends if they have inappropriate items in their lunch.

‘If an item is removed it is bagged up with the child’s name and given to parents at the end of the day.

Many children take a packed lunch to school (Picture: Rex)

‘The school says lunches have improved, they have, but at the expense of parents and children who are scared stiff of taking the wrong thing.’

The mother, who works full-time, says she has to dash out to the shops late at night if she finds she has run out of green or amber food items.

‘It’s double standards, as children with these healthy packed lunches can be sat next to a child having hot school dinners who is eating sponge pudding and custard,’ she said.

‘How do you explain that to a six-year-old who has just had a cereal bar taken off him?’

The policy started at the school in September 2016.

Headteacher Helen Carpenter said: ‘Encouraging healthy eating amongst our pupils is really important to us here at Westgate Primary School.

‘We have adopted a packed lunch policy, like many other schools, with a view to ensuring our pupils have a healthy, balanced and nutritious lunch.

The content of lunch boxes is a subject of great debate (Picture: Rex)

‘The policy is designed to support the different needs that exist within families including budget and time constraints and we take a flexible approach in individual cases where children have significant food issues.

‘We only remove items with high fat or sugar content and replace with a healthy alternative.

‘The majority of our parents are very supportive of this policy and since it was introduced there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of fruit and vegetables in packed lunches.’

(Main picture: Rex/models used)

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