Should Kids Help Serve School Meals?

Should Kids Help Serve School Meals?
19 March 2016

A school in Derbyshire has hit the headlines because of its policy of letting children serve school meals to other children.

The Derbyshire Times reports:

"Angry parents have blasted a school for using 'child labour' to serve lunch time meals - but a headteacher has hit back saying it teaches youngsters important life and social skills."

The premise is simple. The schools runs a 'family dining' scheme whereby children take it in turns to help serve school meals to their fellow pupils. The purpose of the scheme is to help build life and social skills. Each week, a different child from each table of eight serves dinner to their friends, according to a statement by the school's headteacher, who said that the children "really enjoy" the family dining experience.

But some parents of children who attend the school have criticised the scheme, likening it to child labour.

Speaking personally, I'd have absolutely no problem with my child being asked to take a turn at serving school meals to classmates. Indeed, I'd welcome the opportunity for my kids to build those skills, and I'm a fan of any scheme that encourages children to think about others.

That said, I'm not a massive fan of deeming it 'family dining' simply because it's not - and I'd rather the boundaries between family life and school life weren't blurred like this. It's my job to build my child's sense of what a family mealtime is and I'd rather the school didn't liken the school mealtime to a family experience but I appreciate that for some kids, sharing a meal with others at school might be the only family-like atmosphere they encounter when they eat.

But as for this scheme being likened to child labour, I think that's frankly insulting to children who are victims of enforced labour. If the kids were being asked to scrub school floors after lunch or empty the bins I might just about understand the comparison - but this is a valuable opportunity for kids to take on a responsibility and be trusted with an important task among the peers. How anyone could possibly find fault with that, I can't fathom.

On the other hand, comments made by parents on social media indicated that children were coming home distressed as a result of not being given adequate portions under the family dining scheme. To my mind that's a separate matter and if the scheme isn't working, parents should of course ask that teaching staff help manage the scheme more effectively in school.

But what's your view? Do you think the 'family dining' scheme is a good idea or would you be concerned if your child's school meal was being dished up by another child? We'd love to hear your thoughts either in the comments box below or over on our Facebook page.

TOPICS:   Parents

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