The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It was good intentions that saw healthcare professionals raise concerns about the food that some children were being given in their packed lunches. It was good intentions that saw education professionals say they should therefore advise parents what a balanced packed lunch should contain. It was good intentions that then saw education and healthcare professionals unite to dictate what food and drink should be in the child’s packed lunch, or else there would be consequences. As surely as night follows day it was a certainty that these good intentions would be hijacked and transformed into an agenda to wield control over other people.
Two weeks ago a local news story from Dagenham, east London showed this control agenda in action and running into some scattergun resistance from confused and frustrated parents. A water-only policy for the drink in a packed lunch has clashed with some parents’ desire to put sugar-free squash in the lunch instead, due to their young children – just fancy – not liking the taste of water. It turns out the school has made an application for the London Healthy Schools Award, hence its zealous dietary restrictions. The actions of the school have prompted some parents to keep their children off school, affecting what passes for an education there.
In fact, it is the desperation of Valence Primary School to achieve that award, that has seen staff have been removing drink cartons from children and throwing them away, and pouring out drink from containers to check the colour of the contents. The school’s headteacher, Elizabeth Chaplin, said that the school had a policy where midday supervisors disposed of half-empty drinks and yoghurt pots to prevent spillages in lunchboxes, which makes things sound inocuous enough, until she goes on to say that children who were questioned over their drink contents were “more than happy to confirm or demonstrate the water content”. The few reactions to the story from those of an authoritarian bias, prompted me to leave this response:
This local example of the powers that be running out of control has now been added to by a national story from the Daily Mail. That paper reports that Colnbrook C of E Primary School near Slough, has suspended a six-year-old child because his parents refused to stop putting a pack of Mini Cheddars in his packed lunch, in contravention of their ‘healthy eating’ policy. This follows a letter sent to all parents in mid January which included the following:
Chocolate, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks are not allowed.
If your child’s lunchbox is unhealthy and unbalanced they will be provided with a school lunch for which you will be charged.
To be picky, Mini Cheddars arguably do not fall into the list of prohibited foods. But regardless, such behaviour by this and other schools is another example of the machinations of the state taking ownership for the raising of children and imposition of constraints on parents. That is unacceptable.
The state’s agents are out of control. And as for the lack of perspective, for the sake of a cheesy biscuit snack comprising a small part of a child’s diet, that child is having his education, such as it is, adversely affected because the school wants to assert power over his parents. This is more than wrong, it is perverse. It would be wrong to describe this as the nanny state, nannies tend to be kind and affectionate rather than power crazed obsessives who abuse their positions to pursue an agenda set down by those who believe they know best and everyone has to fall into line with their viewpoint. It’s time for parents to shake off their fear of officialdom and take back control of the raising of their children.