October 19, 2021 11.37 am

Disgruntled parent of Lincoln pupil ‘told to eat lunch outside in cold weather’

School says it took measures to tackle overcrowding

A disgruntled parent of a secondary school pupil in Lincoln said their child has to eat their lunch outside in the cold weather while standing up, as break time can be overcrowded in indoor spaces.

The parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Lincolnite that Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School instructed their child to eat lunch in a small shelter on the school field, which is “rammed full of other students” as it is the “only shelter they get from the rain”.

Upon contacting the school, the parent claims that they were told of several outdoor seating areas for their child to sit during lunch breaks, but despite this, no covered seating spaces were available.

With the recent colder weather and imminent winter months on the horizon, the parent called it a “massive safeguarding risk” to not provide indoor spaces for the children during lunch times.

The parent said: “This winter is going to be very cold and wet and forcing kids outside in it is not acceptable in my opinion.

“There should be an inside warm area to sit and eat, kids can’t sit on wet cold benches with freezing hands and eat comfortably.

“My child has already had a few days off with a fever and chill after being stood in the rain and cold for their breaks and not being able to be sheltered due to the large number of kids at the school.

“This situation is going to get worse by far, as the winter months hit and kids have already missed enough school; surely this is a massive safeguarding risk and they have a duty of care to look after my child in a warm, safe environment for their school day.”

The headteacher of the school, Martin McKeown, told The Lincolnite in response that the school had two main areas for students to go at break times, which had plenty of picnic benches and lots of seating.

He said: “If we find that a student wants a quieter place to eat, play or talk with friends, we advise them that the best area to go would be the junior playground – this is usually quiet and has lots of space both for playing around and sitting.

“While the majority of students still prefer to run around outside, students can shelter in the covered areas at the back of school, along the cloisters, the corridor from the cloister to the buzz bar and if needed, the buzz bar. These areas will only be used if it is raining or cold.”

Mr McKeown also added: “There is additional seating at the geography playground and the biology courtyard if needed.  These benches will be moved if students cannot find a place to sit in one of the designated areas, but every break this year has had multiple free benches.

“Some of these areas will get busy when it is raining, so I would recommend that children come to school with a suitable coat if they do not wish to enter these areas. I can understand that not all children will want to go to these busy areas – they can be noisy and busy if it is wet. I mentioned this in a parental letter a few weeks ago.

“There is limited space and if students want to get away from the busy canteen area or cloisters, they will need to bring a coat to stay warm.”

The school has introduced ‘split breaks’ for lunch times to allow for year seven students to have their break fifteen minutes earlier and find a spot and help the younger pupils settle into a routine, though this has meant that indoor spaces are limited.

To try and combat the lack of indoor space during colder months, the school has drawn up contingency plans such as opening up the gym, old hall and marquees for lunch breaks.

This, however, comes with a “detrimental effect” on teaching and learning, due to the old hall being used as classrooms, as well as a “heavy price tag”, according to the headteacher.

The school is also considering the possibility of using the full indoor space by scrapping the split breaks, though this has been questioned due to the “excellent feedback” it has received since it was introduced.

“Student voice has clearly said that they prefer the less busy split breaks – even with being outside,” Mr McKeown said.

“We operated this system all of last year with excellent feedback in comparison to the alternative. 1,300 students all at break at the same time can be very daunting for year 7 and 8 in particular.”

Spotted an error? Please notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.