Parents at a girls school in Thamesmead are complaining that their children are "coming home starving" due to a lack of lunch menu options and a ban on packed lunches.

Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls, which only opened in September 2019, says it is proud of its "culture of family dining" which sees all students and staff eat the same school lunch together and has received recognition from the Department of Education.

But parents at the school are angry at the restricted menu and a ban of packed lunches which is seeing their daughters regularly come home hungry.

The pupils are reportedly offered just one meal choice each day, always vegetarian or fish-based to cater to all, whilst packed lunches are not allowed in order to encourage equality.

One girl reportedly cried explaining the fish ravioli they'd been given at lunch that day to her mum, and a parent said they "resent" paying £80 per half term for food their child doesn't eat.

One mother told the News Shopper her daughter is regularly complaining that they aren't given choices for food, and aren't given a menu so don't know what they're eating that day.

She said: "It is very upsetting that I'm paying £2.90 a day for food that is either vegetarian or spicy that my child does not enjoy eating and so comes home and goes straight into the kitchen to eat.

The mother added: "They also aren’t allowed packed lunches because they want the students to be healthy, but in my defence, going to McDonald’s after school because they haven’t eaten all day isn’t any healthier."

Several parents complained online about the set meal and portion each day, the poor quality of the food on offer and the fact that the neighbouring Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys, which has the same owner, does allow packed lunches and has more choice with its school lunches.

In a statement, the school's headteacher Subreena Kazmi said the school is "consistently working very hard to make sure the food is delicious and nutritious," and after working with families, will now be able to offer a meat option at the same price.

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She explained they had chosen their family dining initiative for several reasons, firstly because it allows them to serve better quality meals for the same money as well as offering environmental and sustainability benefits.

"Most importantly, it allows students of all faiths and different dietary requirements to eat together," said Ms Kazmi.

"We don't allow packed lunches because we want all the children and staff to eat healthily together and engage at lunchtime. With our routines and structure, we are committed to making sure no child ever goes hungry and no child is ever lonely."

The headteacher pointed out that the school does offer food to children at breaktime for no extra cost, talked positively about the family dining system which sees students working together to serve and tidy away.

Ms Kazmi added: "They engage in conversation and reflection, and they develop key skills like empathy, gratitude and leadership - we've had parents say that since starting secondary school, their child has become more helpful with meals and clearing away.

"We have gained recognition not just from the Department for Education, but across London for our work, with other schools coming to see if they can implement family dining in their own schools."

The school, open to girls aged 11 to 16, has only been open for less than half a year, and several mothers said their children were enjoying the academic side of the school, and were just angry at the poor food on offer.