A ROW has broken out after a school in Gwynedd told its cook not to give school meals to children whose parents are in debt.

A letter to parents at Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle in Penygroes said “the cook has been instructed not to give food to any child from November 22nd if the debt has not cleared”.

It adds that debts over £10 will be transferred to the council.

The move has been made because of a deficit in the school’s meal budget, which led to the discovery that “a handful of pupils had run up debts totalling more than £1,800”.

Welsh Conservative shadow minister for education, Laura Anne Jones MS said: “This decision by Gwynedd Council’s is very troubling and concerning.

“No child should be punished and denied food for being more than a penny in debt to the school canteen and it should be discussed with parents and dealt with through that avenue, not this heavy-handed approach.

“Gwynedd Council should immediately reverse this decision and work with parents to find a solution that keeps children fed whilst ensuring monies are collected.”

Gwynedd Council said: “We do not operate a blanket policy of refusing meals to pupils, and will discuss this matter directly with the school.

“We would urge any parents or guardians who are having difficulty in paying for their child’s school meals to contact the Education Department or school directly. Their child may be entitled to free school meals.

“In terms of payment of school meals, an online system has been introduced on which parents should ensure that sufficient funds are in place to pay for their child’s school meals. The payment system offers some flexibility for parents who may for whatever reason not be able to make payment for a short period of time. Reminder messages are sent as required to ensure that no significant debts are incurred.”Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Member for Mid & West Wales Jane Dodds said: “Punishing children and families for circumstances out of their control is never acceptable. Gwynedd Council should immediately step in to rectify the situation.“The Welsh Government should also be considering what it can do to help struggling families out. Unfortunately, as the cost of living crisis hits families across Wales, more and more parents are going to be struggling with paying for school meals.”