School meals

School apologises for ‘awful’ Xmas lunch after suffering Covid staff shortages

Steyning Grammar praised for refunding parents in latest social media storm over school meals

Steyning Grammar praised for refunding parents in latest social media storm over school meals

15 Dec 2021, 17:56

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Steyning Grammar School issued refunds over its Christmas lunch

A secondary school has issued refunds for a Christmas lunch branded “awful” by parents after it was hit by Covid staff shortages and supply chain problems at “very short notice”.

Photos shared by several parents on social media suggest Steyning Grammar School pupils’ main festive meal consisted of a bun with a slice of turkey, small square of stuffing and a ‘pig-in-blanket’ mini-sausage wrapped in bacon (pictured above).

One photo shows it accompanied by a chocolate mini roll, while two others were served with a mince pie on Tuesday.

Ian Northeast, who has two sons at the West Sussex school, said pupils had deserved a better festive meal after “two rubbish years”. He said it cost £3.50.

His sons had taken it in “good humour”, sharing a photo with him. But Northeast, who edits a blog called Dads Delicious Dinners, complained to the school about its nutritional value, and dubbed the meal “awful”.

“My kids are well-fed, but not all children have that. For some it’s the only hot meal they have.”

But he praised the otherwise “great” school for listening to his concerns over the phone, and swiftly issuing refunds.

“They’ve done all they can and accepted they made a mistake,” he added.

He was told the school had asked pupils beforehand what they wanted to eat, and had reported enjoying the meal when asked.

An email reportedly sent to another parent made the same points.

But the school also highlighted the impact of staffing problems. “I do accept it’s something you can’t do anything about,” added Northeast.

‘We apologise unreservedly for this’

A spokesperson for the Bohunt Education Trust, which runs the school, told Schools Week: “Christmas meals are one of the many festive activities we offer at the end of term for our students to enjoy before the holidays.

“The Christmas lunch served to some students yesterday, however, was clearly not in line with the high standards we set for our school caterers, and we apologise unreservedly for this. 

“Due to a combination of unforeseen supply chain issues and COVID related staffing shortages, our planned lunch was affected at very short notice.”

The spokesperson added that the “isolated” matter had been investigated, and affected parents and staff had received an apology and full refund.

Attendance data this week showed staff absences jumping by 20 per cent in the past fortnight over Covid. Around one in 50 staff was off because of the pandemic last Thursday.

Schools Week has previously reported on supply disruption to school meals caused by national delivery driver shortages, blamed on Covid and Brexit.

Catering giant Chartwells’ lockdown food parcels sparked widespread public outcry earlier this year after parents shared images online.

One trust later confirmed it was abandoning the firm over both parcels and buns served in school with half a slice of burger and no garnish.

Hayley Dunn, a business leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said at the time there was no “definitive answer” whether in-house or contracted services work best.

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