Parents have been left furious after a school has informed everyone that it will now be necessary for children to eat their lunch outside “regardless of the weather” due to COVID-19 social distancing rules that have been put in place.
Lode Heath School in Solihull, Birmingham, has informed students that it will now be required that they eat their lunch outside – even in autumn and winter or when it’s pouring with rain – so that COVID-19 social distancing rules can be implemented.
Parents have been told that “regardless of the weather”, their kids will have to eat outside for the foreseeable future, in order to enforce social distancing.
Upon hearing the news, parents were left furious and one mum said that pupils were more likely to prefer eating their lunch whilst sat on a toilet then going out in the pouring rain.
Ran by the Arden Multi-Academy Trust, the academy has 1,150 pupils and the new policy was enforced as of last week.
The school sent an email out to parents to tell them that in order to follow government guidelines, kids would need to bring along an “appropriate raincoat/jacket” for the unpleasant weather they may face whilst eating their lunch outside.
The email stated: “Due to Government guidelines, Lode Heath School is unable to offer indoor facilities/spaces for pupils to use during break times and lunchtimes.
“An appropriate raincoat/jacket is advised, particularly as we are now experiencing a period of inclement weather.
“Pupils will be outside for break times and lunch times regardless of the weather, so we would appreciate parental/guardian support in ensuring pupils are suitably prepared for any periods of bad weather as we enter the autumn and winter months.”
A mum whose 14-year-old daughter attends the school said that she “couldn’t believe her eyes” when she read the email sent out by the academy.
She told BirminghamLive: “The majority of parents are outraged by it – I kept re-reading the email, not believing my eyes.
“So even if it’s freezing cold or pouring with rain, our children have got to sit outside to eat their lunch?
“It’s a massive school with a big sports hall, dining hall and lots of classrooms. Can’t they organise a rota system so that every year group gets half an hour to sit indoors and eat their food?
“They sit together in class, so why not in the dining room to eat their lunch?”
The mum then explained that although there were shelters within the school grounds, it wasn’t enough for all the students as there is only one bench.
She continued: “I’ve heard some children are either not eating at all, or going into the toilets and sitting in there to eat.
“It’s all very well saying ‘put on a raincoat’, but how do you balance holding an umbrella with eating your food? And because some of the lockers aren’t in use, they’ll also have to lug their bags everywhere with them too.”
The academy has since received complaints regarding its latest policy. In response, the associate headteacher Laura Suddon sent out a second email to explain the reasoning behind the school’s new arrangement.
She said that although she accepted it was “far from ideal”, she had no choice but to follow the COVID-19 restrictions that have been imposed in all schools and she’s had to “make decisions we would really rather not”.
The headteacher then said that she had been forced to comprise the pupils’ comfort for their safety instead.
The school now has two thirty-minute breaks for students that are broken up within the morning and the afternoon. These breaks are staggered apart so that pupils also have access to the canteen and toilets and don’t interrupt pupils who are in lessons.
The headteacher’s email continued: “When taking all of this into account, along with the indoor space available, the layout of our building, plus staffing capacity issues, we have no option but to host children outside during their break times,” she said.
“To support students being outside we have purchased two large canopies for the playground, in addition to the large canopy we already have in the food zone. We are awaiting a fourth and are currently trying to source more although these are in short supply.”
She then said that there was enough space for the children under the shelter canopies that were within the school grounds. She said the school had purchased additional outdoor tables and benches – yet these haven’t been placed under the shelters.
Ms Suddon said the indoor rooms of the school couldn’t be used as they didn’t meet social distancing rules or were being used for something else.