Carlisle girl, 10, told she wouldn't get school dinner because of £4 debt
A mother has hit out at a Carlisle primary school which said that her 10-year-old daughter would not get a meal until a debt of £4 was paid.
Cassie Heggie, of Warnell Drive, says her child was at risk of going hungry after she received a letter from her daughter's headteacher at Inglewood Junior School demanding the debt be settled.
David Grimshaw's letter was sent home with her daughter Katie after the Harraby school did not receive £2 payments last Monday and Tuesday.
Parents at the school are expected to pay for meals in advance or on the day, not retrospectively.
Ms Heggie says she has paid for her school dinners in the same way since Katie started at the school - by cash at the end of the week, after picking up her wages on a Thursday.
She said: "I didn't receive the letter until the Wednesday night, but I'd already given Katie £18 to pay that day but if it hadn't have been paid Katie wouldn't have been fed.
"Since Katie was seven I've paid for meals. I told them I get paid every Thursday and I pay straight away, so what is the problem? I will be going to the board of governors about this."
Ms Heggie, who has five children, admitted that she has received text messages in the past relating to non-payment of school dinners.
"Once the debt is settled Katie will be welcome to have hot school meals again. However failure to pay on the day or in advance for future meals will result in Katie not receiving a school meal."
Two thirds of the pupils - about 200 children - have school lunches.
Mr Grimshaw said: "The very large majority of parents pay on time and some pay weeks in advance. There is a small minority
however, less than 10, who do not pay on time and often run up debts."
The school's charging policy sets out what happens when meals are not paid for.
Text messages are sent to parents on days one and two. If no payment is received by the end of that second day, a letter is sent home saying the child will not receive a meal on day three.
Mr Grimshaw said: "On both days the child is fed free of charge. On day three if no payment is received there will be a phone call home, if the first contact is unavailable further contacts are phoned to request payment. We have never had a situation when payment has not come in to school that day.
"School is very accommodating and will discuss payment plans or payment days to ensure that a child’s meal is always paid in advance. We are aware that parents get paid on different days and we have many parents who pay Wednesday to Wednesday but always in advance of meals."
He added: "There are still some occasions when parents do not pay on agreed days running up debts of up to £20 and sometimes beyond.
"For these very rare instances school must take a stance and issue a severe warning. This warning is after weeks and sometimes months of failing to pay on time as well as numerous text messages, phone calls and face to face conversations."