Essex dad offers to clear debts at school refusing food to children 'who owe a penny'

Essex blogger Simon Harris, of Men Behaving Dadly, with his kids
Credit: Men Behaving Dadly
Permission sought and given to ITV Anglia
Man Behaving Dadly blogger Simon Harris and his children Credit: Simon Harris/Men Behaving Dadly

A dad has offered to step in to clear debts at a school which had threatened to refuse food to children who could not pay for their meals.

The head of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle school in Wales had sent a letter warning parents their children would not get school dinners if their accounts were even a penny short.

The letter prompted a backlash, with footballer Marcus Rashford even getting involved to express his dismay at the decision made by Neil Foden, strategic head of the North Wales school.

Now, an Essex dad has offered to clear the children's account debts at the school canteen - saying it's a 'no brainer'.

The blogger behind Men Behaving Dadly posted on Facebook revealing he had offered cash to the school.

Award-winning dad blogger Simon Harris tweeted at the school, offering to pay £1,800 to erase the shortfall.

The father-of-four behind 'Man Behaving Dadly', wrote on Facebook: "I’ve just made this genuine offer to the management of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle on Twitter."

He added: "I will absolutely cover their catering deficit if it stops this madness of kids potentially going hungry."

Mr Harris told ITV Anglia he had previously raised money to combat child poverty and for foodbanks, and said families struggled with cash for complex reasons.

He challenged claims the poorest families were entitled to free school meals and that everyone else should have enough money to pay.

Men Behaving Dadly blogger and fundraiser Simon Harris.

Family income could be threatened by sudden issues like job losses, waiting for new benefits payments to start, being missed in a payroll, or facing Universal Credit sanctions- leading debts to mount, the dad explained.

"I know there may be parents out there who may not spend their money for the right reasons - but no child should have to pay the price for that," Mr Harris added.

"This seems like a really simple way of dealing with a really immediate situation.

"If it's going to take eighteen-hundred quid for kids to eat, let's just deal with it - it's a no-brainer."

The school letter to parents said the cook had been instructed not to give "any child if their debt has not been cleared, or, in the future, to children whose accounts do not have enough money to pay for lunch".

Mr Foden said the deficit in the school budget at the end of the last half term had led to the decision, adding that a "handful of pupils" had debts totalling more than £1,800.

In an earlier statement following the outcry over the policy, Mr Foden said pupils from the poorest families were eligible for free school meals.

He added: "Any parent in genuine financial difficulty should write to their child’s head of year in order that we may see how best to assist.

"We understand that many families have experienced financial difficulty during the pandemic and we are not unsympathetic.

"However, any shortfall in the budget for school meals will have to be made up by the school which could mean fewer books and resources for all pupils because of debts run up by a few."

The school has not yet responded publicly to Mr Harris' offer.

Mr Harris has previously successfully raised thousands for the RNLI, after Nigel Farage criticised the charity for its work rescuing migrants making the dangerous Channel crossing by boat.

Mr Harris launched a tongue-in-cheek fundraiser to buy the RNLI a hovercraft and name it 'The Flying Farage,' and ended up pulling in more than £115,000 for the charity.