I can still remember my first day at school. I was almost a whole year older than Frog will be when she starts school, having been born at the other end of the academic year. But I was still nervous, gripping my mum’s hand tightly on the short walk up the road.
As we sat on the floor for registration our new teacher asked us who was having school dinners. I had my lunch money in a special coin holder. I’d been given it on a family holiday to North Wales on a day trip to Anglesey Zoo. It was bright red and had a cord that went round your neck. My shiny coins clinked as I walked to the front of the classroom and handed the cash over. “Bring it in an envelope with your name on tomorrow,” said my teacher.
I wasn’t too bothered about school dinners. I can remember soggy pizza and semolina and being told to “eat it all up” by stern dinner ladies. We didn’t have the “clear your plate rule” at home, so it all felt a bit… scary. My prevailing memory of school includes packed lunches made lovingly by my mum, often including notes or stickers. School dinners became a rare occurrence, and I was OK with that.
Frog, however, will start the year as a school dinner child. This is because, from September, all primary school children aged four to seven (so that’s all kids in reception, year 1 and year 2) will be entitled to free school meals. We’re not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, so we’ve put Frog’s name down for school meals.
Having sat in on one of the lunches at her new school I know that school dinners have moved on from my own days as a four year old. On one of Frog’s induction days she had chicken with pasta and vegetables, followed by a chocolate pudding that she scoffed in seconds. (There are more recipes for school dinners over at the Children’s Food Trust.)
As with everything, we’re planning to wait and see how the school dinner thing goes. If Frog likes them then she’ll continue to have them. If she doesn’t, then we’ll revert to packed lunches. But, judging by the “test” lunch, school dinners will be pretty tasty (and healthy – although when you’re four, you don’t care too much about that).
What are your memories of school meals? Were you a school dinner child or a packed lunch pupil?
Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with the Department for Education.