Snackbox biscuit battle

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
Sue Lines, headteacher of Piper's Vale school, and her governors have eliminated chocolate biscuits and sweets from the children's playtime snacks, and now have their sights set on that parental bastion, the lunchbox.

The primary in Ipswich, a merged primary and infant school, serves a large, deprived estate. More than half of the children have free school meals.

"We started with a breakfast club at the infants school, which was open to all the children. We soon found that a nutritious breakfast made all the difference to the concentration levels in the classroom," said Mrs Lines, who was head of infants at the time.

"We also used to buy fruit and vegetables for the nursery and reception children to eat at breaktime. We found that these children would automatically say 'I don't like that', but would eventually be persuaded to try."

Both the schemes are still running in the school, along with an after-school club, which offers healthy snacks. All of them are funded with money from the New Opportunities Fund, parental contributions and school budget.

When Mrs Lines took over the junior school, she closed down the tuck shop which sold sweets at playtime.

"We wrote to parents to explain why we were closing the shop and encouraged them to send in a healthy breaktime snack. Mostly parents were happy, until we banned flavoured cheesy biscuits," says Mrs Lines.

Mrs Lines decided that crackers were no longer an option as the children were bringing in the not-so-healthy ham and pizza-flavoured varieties.

"I was a little surprised by the reaction," says Mrs Lines. "Some parents thought it was funny and would hiss 'cheesy biscuits' when they walked past me. But others were angry and I had to have one-to-one talks with them to explain."

After the battle of the biccies, Mrs Lines and the governors are now formulating a softly, softly strategy for lunchboxes.

"It has been very difficult trying to think of a way we can improve the contents of the lunchboxes without insulting or undermining parents."

One of the possibilities they are considering is bringing parents into the Year 2 cooking club so they can see how easy it can be to make cheap healthy meals such as jacket potatoes or healthy sandwich fillings.

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