A BLOGGER and a footballer chipping into a row about pupils being denied school meals at Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle, Penygroes has led to a U-turn.

A letter sent to parents who had run up school meal debts said “the cook has been instructed not to give food to any child from November 22nd if the debt has not cleared”, adding that debts over £10 will be transferred to the council.

The move, made because “a handful of pupils had run up debts totalling more than £1,800”, hit the headlines last week, leading footballer and school meal campaigner Marcus Rashford to tweet: “Has the pandemic not taught us anything? Can we not be understanding? Come on now…”

Man Behaving Dadly blogger Simon Harris tweeted the school saying: “I am more than happy to cover this amount from some recent fundraising to end this madness.”

Welsh Conservative shadow minister for education, Laura Anne Jones MS said: “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.”

Following media interest, the school governing body held an urgent meeting on Friday.

Members said they would “not be supportive of any system which refuses the provision of a school dinner to a pupil based on affordability”, and insisted “the procedures set out in the letter are reviewed”.

In addition, the body also said it had received “reports of teachers storing snacks in their classrooms in order to provide food for children who come to school without breakfast”.

They said they support calls for free school meals for all children and in view of the media attention to this, they invite the minister for education and the Welsh language to meet with them.

With regard to issues with the school’s online payment system the body said it would open discussions with the local authority about improving this system.

Gwynedd Council has apologised “for the worry and concern caused by the content and wording” of the letter.

“The welfare of children and young people is always our priority, and we will always ensure that no child across the county will face a day without lunch at school,” a spokesperson said.

“This should be made clear in any letter to parents from the county’s schools when discussing school dinners.

“Having investigated what happened in the case of this recent letter, it seems that technical advice provided by the education department on how to deal with school dinner payment debts created a lack of clarity, and we sincerely apologise for the impact this has had. In light of this matter, we will review our guidance to schools.”

“We would urge parents or guardians experiencing difficulty paying for school dinners to contact the education department or school directly. Their child may be entitled to free school meals.

“If not, we would still encourage families to contact us for guidance and support if they are facing financial hardship.”