Wembley free school makes children eat lunch alone if parents fail to pay for school meals on time

Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher of Michaela Community School

Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher of Michaela Community School - Credit: Archant

A Wembley free school is forcing children to eat by themselves and denying them a hot meal if their parents fail to pay for school lunches on time.

Michaela Community School, a mixed secondary free school in North End Road, puts pupils in “lunch isolation” if parents fall behind on regular school meal payments.

Children are made to sit on their own for an hour and given just a sandwich and piece of fruit, instead of the usual hot meal and dessert.

The policy is the brainchild of controversial headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh, who said the measure was to encourage parents to “change their ways”.

In a letter to a family of a child at Michaela, deputy headteacher Barry Smith wrote: “You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week, your child will be placed into lunch isolation...”


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It continued: “They will receive a sandwich and piece of fruit only. They will spent the entire 60 minutes [sic] period in lunch isolation.

“Only when the outstanding sum is paid in full will they be allowed into family lunch with their classmates.”

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The family who were sent the letter have now moved their child to another school.

Meals at the school cost £2.50 a day, and payment is required up front. Typical lunches include cheese and tomato pizza and ice cream, and a jacket potato with cheese and beans, followed by a mousse.

Miss Birbalsingh defended putting children in isolation for missed payments, and told The Daily Mail: “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.

“The vast majority of secondary schools use isolation to discipline children.”

The school describes itself as having a “private school ethos” with no fees.

Miss Birbalsingh rose to prominence after speaking out at the 2010 Conservative party conference in support of former education secretary Michael Gove, claiming that the state education system was “broken”.

She went on to found Michaela in 2014 after leaving her job as deputy headteacher of a south London comprehensive school.

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