Top private school holds 'austerity day' with baked potatoes and beans for lunch

Eleanor Busby

A prestigious private girls’ school has faced strong criticism after holding an “austerity day” where students dined on baked potatoes, beans and coleslaw.

St Paul’s Girls’ School in west London was accused of being “tone deaf” after it tweeted about the charity fundraiser which saw staff and students eating “simple food” in place of the fare they are normally served.

It said money saved on dinners at the £24,000-a-year school – whose former pupils include actors Rachel Weisz and Natasha Richardson – would go towards the school’s charities.

The tweet, which included a photo of the potatoes and fruit being served up – and one illustration of what appears to be a butler lifting the lid on a platter containing only three peas - was described by critics as being “offensive” to those genuinely suffering from austerity.

The government’s policy of austerity around public spending, initiated in 2010, was spearheaded by then-chancellor George Osborne, who attended the school’s associated institution, St Paul’s School.

St Paul’s Girls’ school in London has come under fire for hosting an ‘austerity day’ (Wikimedia Commons)

The event at the school follows reports in April of malnourished pupils in state schools stuffing food into their pockets amid growing numbers of children living in poverty.

Jasper Cresdee-Hyde tweeted: “The very concept of holding an ‘austerity day’ as a joke is ridiculously privileged and tone deaf.”

“How offensive do you have to be? This is not austerity,” Henna Shah wrote on Twitter.

Georgia O’Brien tweeted: “One of the country’s leading independent schools holding an ‘austerity day’ where students eat what is basically amounts to a standard state school dinner.”

A spokesperson for the school told The Independent: “For many years, along with many schools and places of worship in the country, St Paul’s has arranged regular lunches when simple food is served and the money saved given to local charities.

“The aim is also to raise the awareness of our students to those less fortunate than themselves. We take our commitment to the wider community very seriously.

“The choice of the word ‘austerity’ is to draw attention to the fact that others around them are facing significant economic difficulties.”