PARENTS and children have spoken out after headteacher Ian Spencer banned home packed lunches for infants at All Saints C of E Primary in Clayton-le-Moors.

Mr Spencer said the introduction of universally free school meals this September will see children under seven provided with hot or cold meals regardless of eligibility.

Children will be able to choose from a varied menu which includes ‘packed lunch’ options.

Some parents have said they feel the move will stop the one-upmanship of children who want the latest lunch box. Others say the move will help protect those with severe food allergies by preventing food swaps.

The school’s own pupil council had mixed reactions and said around half of its suggestions had made it on to the new school menus. Nine-year-old Kane Hammerton said: “It’s a good idea and there is lots of choice. “People were bringing crisps in and it was unhealthy.”

However, Casey Walsh, 10, said she was glad the no packed lunches rule applied only to the under sevens.

She said: “I think it’s a bad idea; even though there is a lot of choice it’s less choice than your own packed lunch.

“I don’t like biscuits with ginger in and I would rather bring my own.

“It’s true though that they are expensive and parents will be saving a lot of money.” Cameron Astley, 11 added: “I don’t know that I want the school to spend money on food. That must mean that less is spent on other things like sports days and equipment.”

Elizabeth Briggs, seven added: “It’s a good idea and you can still have biscuits and things.” Imogen Poole, seven, said: “You still get a treat and most of us like the food a lot.”

Parents at the school yesterday in support of the bid said it would make life easier.

Mum-of-one Caroline Briggs said: “I think there’s a lot of pressure on parents to provide an unhealthy snack if their child’s friends do. There’s also needing the latest lunch box. Life should be simpler for infant age children and now they all just get the same thing.”

Parent Carol Oxford said: “It's also educating the children to choose what they are going to have. They start dinner time fifteen minutes earlier to discuss the meals. This all helps their social and emotional development. Meal times are all about getting together to eat and develop socially.”

Dad-of-four Jonathan Kenyon said: “Some schools don’t offer the best quality but they do here. We’ve spoken to the cook and everything is fresh, nothing is mass produced junk. They’ve been excellent at working with parents.”

Mr Spencer said: “It was just three years ago that one of our children had a severe allergic reaction – children do pass things around when they bring in their own lunch. It’s also very difficult to teach children who have had a bad lunch.

“Our cook Karen McNeill is starting work earlier each day so she can talk to parents about any concerns.

“We are so lucky to have such a dedicated staff member and the whole kitchen team is like that.

“It isn’t like the old days where you got what you were given – usually semolina – and no one will be forced to eat anything.

“We will be in touch very quickly with the parent of any child who isn’t eating."