Barrowford headteacher defends 'environmentally friendly meat free' school menu

A village primary school headteacher has been criticised after introducing a "meat-free" menu to her school.

By Dominic Collis
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 3:45 pm

Barrowford Primary School headteacher Rachel Tomlinson has defended her decision to remove meat from her school's dinner menu, after an anonymous complaint was made by parents.

The school in Rushton Street has been serving meat-free meals for around a year, with Mrs Tomlinson citing environmental concerns in a letter to parents and also asking them to provide meat-free packed lunches for children if possible.

But the decision has not gone down well with all parents.

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Barrowford Primary School

One concerned parent contacted the Burnley Express and Leader Times to say: "Barrowford Primary School has taken the choice away from parents by making all children eat meat free.

"Parents are only just being informed of the headteacher's choice to change the school meals.

"The area has low statistics for being a deprived area as it is, and Mrs Tomlinson has slated farmers for being the cause of rapid climate change which is a sad stance for a village school.

"Some parents are very unhappy and feel like they have no voice."

In a letter to parents, Mrs Tomlinson had said that "reducing the consumption of meat is one of the best things we can do to stop climate change. The livestock industry is a massive contributor to carbon footprints."

Mrs Tomlinson responded to the criticism and said that Barrowford pupils learn about the principles of sustainable development as part of the national curriculum, and "are really interested in how they can contribute to better looking after our environment."

She added: "We made our school lunches meat free over a year ago to demonstrate how each of us making a small change to our daily habits can have a much wider positive impact, and that reducing meat consumption is just one way to do this.

"This is something we've done as a school with the support of the governing body, and we have generally received positive feedback from parents.

"Our menu choices have also become more diverse and interesting as a result of making them meat free, and the number of children choosing to take school meals has increased over the past year.

"Parents get to choose the meal options for their child for the following week, and our menu still includes fish options. We have been careful to approach this in a balanced way, and teach that it is fine to eat meat, but that reducing our consumption can help our planet."

It is not the first time Mrs Tomlinson has courted controversy during her headship at Barrowford which has won her plaudits and criticism in equal measure.

In a post-exam letter to pupils in 2014 which went viral, Mrs Tomlinson won praise for telling pupils they were more “special and unique” than exam results might indicate.

However, in 2015, Government inspectors Ofsted rated the school "inadequate" with the behaviour of pupils requiring improvement cited as one of the failings. Mrs Tomlinson had banned her staff from raising their voices to pupils, insisting no child was ever to be considered naughty.

A further inspection in 2016 saw the school rated as "good".

Typical daily menus at Barrowford School include:

Day one:

Tomato pasta and garlic bread; fish, mash and beans; jacket potato with a choice of fillings; vegan pasta.

Day two:

Margherita pizza; crispy Quorn dippers; school packed lunch (sandwiches etc); vegan burgers.

Day three:

Vegetable tikka and rice; jacket potato with a choice of fillings; school packed lunch (sandwiches etc); vegetable curry and rice.

Day four: (Friday menu only – being a bit less balanced than on other days)

Fish and chips; pizza and chips; vegan pizza and chips.

Barrowford Primary School was just one of