Carlisle girl, 10, told she wouldn't get school dinner because of £4 debt

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Katie Dodd with her mum Cassie Heggie
Katie Dodd with her mum Cassie Heggie

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.

 David Grimshaw

David Grimshaw

Mr Grimshaw's letter, dated March 15, stated: "Failure to pay £4 for the meals already taken will result in Katie not receiving any school meals from Wednesday 15th March onwards until the debt is settled.

"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."

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Dave   , Carlisle Tuesday, 21 March, 2017 at 7:32AM
Is this really the lead story? There must be very little happening in Cumbria! Has the mother seriously ran to the paper with this story? The system is black and white. Nobody is above the rules. I hope the News & Star paid £4 for that story.
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Ian   , Southport, Monday, 20 March, 2017 at 7:23PM
Typical headline seeker. Fair warning was given. You have to pay for meals, school or otherwise.
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Nicholas   Gee , Wigton Monday, 20 March, 2017 at 6:41PM
Pay up and stop playing for sympathy in this paper. I assume that it's the non-payer who contacted a journalist about this private, confidential matter between the school and the parent. Everyone's a victim even if they caused their own problem! And five children - enough already.
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John   Millican , Carlisle Monday, 20 March, 2017 at 4:31PM
The school have been perfectly within their rights to do what they have done. How did this ever get to print and how did Miss Heggies other 4 children get fed?
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Jackie   , Penrith Monday, 20 March, 2017 at 3:56PM
How is this the main story? The school has a clear and fair system in place, the mother clearly doesn't think the rules apply to her and is not setting a very good example for her daughter.
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Vim   Hemcakk , Carlisle Monday, 20 March, 2017 at 2:57PM
Hmmm
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Steve   , Carlisle Monday, 20 March, 2017 at 12:17PM
This seems perfectly reasonable to me. In the real world those unable to pay for their lunch wouldn't get credit for two days. If parents are unable or unwilling to pay in the agreed way they should send a sandwich. This is the real world!
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