1. ITV Report

£24,000-a-year school criticised over ‘austerity day’ lunch of jacket potatoes

St Paul’s Girls’ School was accused by a former pupil of showing ‘utter contempt'. Credit: PA

A private school with fees of £8,000 a term has been criticised for showing "utter contempt" in a tweet about an “austerity day” in which pupils were served jacket potatoes for lunch.

St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, west London, holds several "austerity days" each year, with the money saved on the lunches going to local charities.

Following the online uproar, the school - which normally serves lunches such as seared cod, slow-cooked Moroccan lamb and duck leg confit - appeared to delete the Twitter post in question.

The post, which was screen-grabbed and shared, said: “Today was the final Austerity Day of the year. Students and staff had baked potatoes, with beans and coleslaw, for lunch, with fruit for dessert.

“The money saved will be donated to the school’s charities.”

Twitter user @everydayhunger was one of those who attacked the school over the post, writing: “Can they really be unaware that for families living in poverty today, this ‘austerity’ meal is completely out of reach?

“Maybe they should visit their local food bank to see what genuine poverty rations look like.”

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The post included pictures of the food described, as well as an image of what appears to be the arm of a butler or waiter lifting a lid from a platter containing just three peas.

One former pupil criticised the school for showing "utter contempt" in the way the day was presented online.

Henna Shah, 24, a former bursary student, said: “I am incredibly grateful to have gone to a school that has given me opportunities someone like me would never have had otherwise.

“Yet I recognise that few people like me get the chance to have an education like this on a bursary scheme like I did.

“I am highlighting this now because this is not about pulling the ladder up behind me – I joined the Labour party and work in politics now precisely because everyone deserves the best quality education.

“It is upsetting to see that on a day that is meant to be about compassion, the way it was presented showed utter contempt.

“Austerity is not about eating jacket potatoes once a term, it is about not being able to afford anything else.”

Twitter user Georgia O’Brien also attacked the school over the tweet writing: “One of the country’s leading independent schools holding an ‘Austerity Day’ where students eat what is basically amounts to a standard state school dinner.”

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Another described the "austerity day" lunch as similar to what they were served at primary school.

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A menu on the school website, for a week in May, gave a flavour of what is usually on offer for lunch at the school.

Pupils tucked into delights such as Malaysian snapper Curry with okra and tomato, warm chicken and asparagus Caesar Salad, and plum and blackcurrant sponge.

According to the school’s website, the fee per term for the academic year 2017-2018 is £7,978, and for new entrants to the sixth form (Year 12) the fee per term is £8,577.

The school fee includes lunch, the website said.

A food section on the website says: “Everyone knows teenage girls can be picky eaters, so we try to give them lots of choice.

“We regard the enjoyment of good and healthy food as a priority and lunch at St Paul’s is a real highlight of the day.”

A sample menu from the school's website. Credit: St Paul's Girls' School

In a statement responding to the criticism, the school said: “For many years, along with many schools and places of worship in the country, St Paul’s has arranged regular lunches when simple food is served and the money saved given to local charities.

“The aim is also to raise the awareness of our students to those less fortunate than themselves.

“We take our commitment to the wider community very seriously.

“The choice of the word ‘austerity’ is to draw attention to the fact that others around them are facing significant economic difficulties."