A mother has leapt to the defence of a girls school in Thamesmead after criticism over its controversial lunch policy, stating the school has "changed my daughter's life."

Last week, parents at Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls complained that their children were "coming home starving" due to just one meal option a day, costing £2.90, and a ban on packed lunches.

The school, which only opened last September, responded saying it is proud of its "culture of family dining" which sees all students eat the same school lunch together.

And one mum believes the school should be applauded, not criticised, for its forward-thinking and inclusive approach.

Tracy Dallarda says the school has been "life-changing" for her daughter, who is extremely quiet and suffers from a number of different development disorders, including Asperger's.

Since joining the school's first ever year group in September, Ms Dallarda said her daughter's enjoyment of school has improved immeasurably.

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Ms Dallarda explained: "Before secondary school, she was the most unhappy child you could imagine. But since starting, it has honestly changed her life.

"There is an approach across the whole school of including everyone. It stretches across every single member of staff, and all my daughter has received since starting is never-ending support."

Talking about the rules around lunches, she said: "The school's policy has taken away the horrors of lunch time.

"My daughter can't make choices, she's too frightened, and by setting a menu each day they've taken away that fear."

"It might sound trivial to others, but when you're the parent of a child who suffers so much in school, it makes the world of difference knowing the staff there are trying to help.

"These are the things that matter. Unless the children are starving, the choice of food comes second to the education. That's why these criticisms of the school are so unfair."

The complaints listed by parents at the school centred around the menu on offer, with just one meal choice a day, always vegetarian or fish-based, combined with a ban on packed lunches to encourage equality.

One mum said her child had resorted to going to McDonald's after school each day, whilst another said she "resented" paying £80 per half term for food their child doesn't eat.

Tracy responded by saying that whilst there are days when her daughter doesn't like the meals on offer, this has always been the case with school lunches.

"It was the same for her brothers in school 10 years ago as it was for me, school lunches are school lunches.

"If other parents have had issues, why would they not just speak to the school. They're so approachable."

In a statement, the school's headteacher Subreena Kazmi said they were "consistently working very hard to make sure the food is delicious and nutritious," and after having worked with parents would now be offering a meat option at the same price.

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Explaining the policy, Ms Kazmi said the 'family dining' initiative allowed them to serve better quality meals for the same money, "allowing students of all faiths and dietary requirements to eat together."

The school doesn't allow packed lunches to ensure no child ever goes hungry, and instead encourages all pupils to sit down and eat the same meal together.

Ms Dallarda stated that all she wanted to say to the school was thank you.

"When my daughter first started there, I was planning on waiting two weeks until booking an appointment to see how she was doing.

"On day two, they rang me up. Of course I worry, but the school cares about her.

"Now my daughter talks more, she doesn't cling to me at the school gate, and she even wants to go more and more of the after-school clubs they run.

She added: "It is so easy to just ignore the raucous kids or the really quiet ones, but at this school the team are so amazing you can't slip through the net."