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Parents slam ‘Dickensian’ secondary school for sending badly behaved pupils to the back of the lunch queue in new crackdown on poor behaviour


  • Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton brought in ‘Attitude to Learning’ scheme

Pupils with low behaviour scores are being sent to the back of the food queue in a ‘Dickensian’ move by a secondary school.

The ‘Attitude to Learning’ scheme, at Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton, awards pupils scores based on criteria including respect, creativity and resilience.

Those given the best scores are promoted to the front of the queue at breaktime, while those with the worst scores must wait until others have finished.

Parents have said the system ‘unfairly discriminates’ against children and uses access to food as a punishment to ‘shame’ less able pupils. 

One mother, with a daughter at the school, said: ‘This is positively Dickensian. Rewarding access to food is like something out of Oliver Twist.

The 'Attitude to Learning' scheme, at Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton , awards pupils scores based on criteria including respect, creativity and resilience

The ‘Attitude to Learning’ scheme, at Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton , awards pupils scores based on criteria including respect, creativity and resilience

‘My daughter says she gets really anxious at breaktime because she is separated from her friends and told to wait.

‘I don’t know what the head was thinking introducing this, and I fully expect the local authority and school governors to step in.’

A father said: ‘Restricting access to food or using it as a reward is totally wrong. This is 2024, not the Victorian era.’

One girl attending the East Sussex school – deemed a ‘good’ pupil but with poor scores – said there is often little food left by the time she gets into the canteen. The year 11 pupil claimed she ate just a small fruit jelly one day this week.

Her mother said: ‘If the school is trying to improve the behaviour and learning of pupils then I fail to see how not feeding them is going to help. Kids need proper nutrition to maintain concentration levels for study and good behaviour. This policy is counter-productive.

‘My daughter has been coming home starving hungry. She falls behind in just two subjects, so she is in a lower group. By the time her group gets into the canteen, everything has almost gone.’

Pupils are separated into six groups, with group one getting into the canteen first. Being marked ‘good’ across all subjects leads to being placed in a higher group. Those ‘needing to improve’ are assigned to a lower group.

The policy at Dorothy Stringer was piloted in year 11 last year by headmaster Matt Hillier, it was then rolled out across the school

The policy at Dorothy Stringer was piloted in year 11 last year by headmaster Matt Hillier, it was then rolled out across the school

Parents said the Attitude to Learning (ATL) scheme is used in other UK schools, though it is not known how many others use it to control access to food.

The policy at Dorothy Stringer was piloted in year 11 last year by headmaster Matt Hillier, it was then rolled out across the school.

Mr Hillier said: ‘The new system was introduced to improve queuing and ensure that students can access the canteen safely. It only applies at breaktimes, when approximately 1,600 children go through the canteen in 25 minutes, and not at lunchtimes. Lunchtime and free school meal provision is unchanged.

‘Students are not separated from their friends – they can choose to wait and go in together. This system does not prevent anyone from accessing food and food does not run out. It rewards students who demonstrate a positive ATL.

‘It is not linked to attainment and lots of students with SEN [special educational needs] have excellent scores. 

A small number of students with a specific need linked to canteen entry already have passes that allow them to bypass the queue.’



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