Outrage over custard and ice cream ban at Scottish school

Outrage as Scottish council axes custard and ice cream from school dinner menus under plans to slash pupils’ sugar intake and cut costs

  • Pupils at Rhynie Primary School, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire are disappointed 
  • Council officials have banned cook Heather Moir from making her puddings 
  • New Scottish regulations have reduced the amount of sugar in school meals
  • The children have sent their petition to the local council seeking a reversal  

A Scottish council has scrapped custard and ice cream from its primary school dinner menus, prompting a backlash from parents and pupils.

Aberdeenshire Council claims new legislation from the Scottish Government which aims to curb children’s sugar intake over the school day has forced the move by driving up food costs.

It has now removed the traditional creamy puddings, along with other favourites, from its forthcoming menus.

School children Angus Beverly, left, aged 10 and his 11-year-old William Dibb, right, are outraged over Scottish government plans to ban their favourite pudding from the menu

The Scottish government has introduced new rules to reduce the amount of sugar in school meals prompting Rhynie Primary School, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire to complain

The custard ban has been implemented at Rhynie Primary School in Aberdeenshire, pictured

In 2005, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had his School Dinners series where he visited a school in south east London and insisted it scrapped Turkey Twizzlers and chips and replace them with fish and broccoli.

A further programme in Rawmarsh School in Rotherham in 2006 saw parents attempting to subvert Jamie’s healthy menu by smuggling burgers and portions of chips through the railings to pupils. 

But the move in Aberdeenshire has been likened to the ‘Thatcher era’ when the former Prime Minister stopped free milk for the over sevens in the 1970s. 

And with many other authorities still serving custard or ice cream under the new rules, parents fear the council is using the legislation to inflict further cutbacks.

The cash-strapped council, which has to save more than £20million this year, confirmed it has already stopped serving grapes because ‘halving and quartering them became too labour intensive and there are cheaper alternatives’.

Furious youngsters from Rhynie Primary School, near Huntly, have now taken matters into their own hands to bring back their cook’s ‘best puddings in the world’, after she announced there would be no more after the Easter holidays.

Instigated by pupils William Dibb, 11, and Angus Beverly, 10, their petition has generated signatures from every pupil and member of staff at both Rhynie and Gartly schools – including their cook Heather Moir.

In a letter to the authority, under the heading ‘Removal of puddings from school dinner menu’, their class wrote: ‘The puddings that we love, cooked by Mrs Moir, are the best in the world and we don’t want to lose them. They are part of a balanced diet for us and we know that Mrs Moir reduces the sugar content as much as possible.

‘We ask kindly that you revert back to having puddings as part of our choice for dinner.’

The council has also removed the option of cheese and biscuits from its primary school menus, despite being one of the highest priced in Scotland at £2.50 a day.

The pair have launched a petition on behalf of their school friends asking for the puddings to be reinstated. They describe their cook Heather Moir’s puddings as ‘the best in the world’ 

As of April 8, the Scottish Government recommends they contain no more than 15g of sugar per portion at school dinner times and they should be served no more than three days a week

Instead soup will now be offered each day and desserts will be predominantly fruit, with variations including jelly, natural yoghurt or a muffin, which pupils say is ‘only a mouthful’, as an accompaniment to the fruit, three days a week.

A newsletter to Uryside Primary School parents in Inverurie also stated that ‘fruit juice and smoothies will no longer be provided’ and that ‘sweetened baked goods and desserts etc now have to meet a new criteria set’.

As of April 8, the Scottish Government recommends they contain no more than 15g of sugar per portion at school dinner times and they should be served no more than three days a week.

But mother-of-two Louise Grant, 28, thinks Aberdeenshire Council has gone too far eliminating custard and ice cream.

She said: ‘There’s nothing wrong with everything in moderation. The kids get a lovely balanced diet at school, and at home too, so why shouldn’t they get a small slice of cake and custard.

‘Primary school kids are always so active, it can’t be about childhood obesity. They don’t even serve grapes anymore because they are too expensive.’

Another father, who has two children in primary school, said: ‘Without the option of a proper pudding, school dinners are no longer value for money. It’s like the Thatcher era when she banned milk. There is no way this is purely about nutrition.’

The two pupils organised a petition seeking the reinstatement of their favourite deserts  

Georgina Beeson, 29, whose daughter, Emily, is in primary three, said: ‘Personally, I think the council has scrimped as much as they can already. Not every child appreciates fruit as a pudding and I know for a fact that sometimes a pudding can really lift a child’s spirits, especially if it’s sponge and custard or jelly and ice cream, as they’re just classics.’

‘Fruit is maybe an idea as a choice if children want it, but not instead of.’

Donald Milne 50, who has a daughter in primary six, added: ‘You have a certain expectation when you send your child to school that they will be well fed.

The schoolboys’ letter 

Removal of puddings from school dinner menu. 

The puddings that we love, cooked by Mrs Moir, are the best in the world and we don’t want to lose them. 

They are part of a balanced diet for us and we know that Mrs Moir reduces the sugar content as much as possible. 

We ask kindly that you revert back to having puddings as part of our choice for dinner.

‘I have a high metabolism and when I was at school I had soup, a main course and a pudding every day because I needed it, and I never put on any weight. Maybe some kids will start flagging in the afternoon without that additional energy.

‘But they’re not going to take away something that has been given to children for decades unless it’s down to cost cutting.

‘They’ve got to find some way of feeding the kids properly, but I don’t see how not giving them puddings is going to help their education.

‘Everyone thought it was an April Fools’ that they were doing away with the puddings.’

A council spokesman confirmed its primaries school menus had been ‘refreshed to be in line with nutritional requirements introduced by the Scottish Government’ and that ‘desserts such as ice cream and custard have been removed’.

But he insisted alternatives such as brownies, muffins and gingerbread would be offered.

He added: ‘However, our focus is currently on healthy eating as well as using the very best produce available in Aberdeenshire and Scotland to provide pupils with nutritious and delicious meals at affordable prices.

‘The changes introduced by the Scottish Government will lead to a rise in our food costs in real terms. We are hopeful the increases will be met by reductions in our costs meaning the public will not need to pay more for school meals.’

The new guidelines also dictates the amount of fruit and vegetables, red meat and oily fish that should be consumed during school time.

It comes just a month after MSPs agreed a Budget Bill that includes the phased introduction of free school meals for all primary school children by next August.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said [in his ministerial forward on the new healthy eating guidance]: ‘Schools have a pivotal role in supporting healthier dietary choices from an early age. The food and drink options they provide and the eating and drinking habits they instil can also serve as an example for positive dietary choices for wider society.’ 

Jamie Oliver’s free school meals controversy 

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has spent the past 15 years campaigning to improve the quality of school meals. 

In Jamie’s School Meals in 2005 the chef sought to outlaw the Turkey Twizzler – which was a popular choice in schools across the UK. 

He wanted to replace highly processed or high fat items such as chips, with more healthy options such as fish or broccoli. 

Jamie Oliver, pictured in February 2005  promoting his Jamie’s School Dinners programme has campaigned consistently about improving food standards in the playground

The first show featured a school in Greenwich, south east London, while in 2006, he highlighted Rawmarsh School in Rotherham. 

Jamie urged school managers to upgrade their menu to offer more healthy options and remove harmful products. 

However, the there was a considerable backlash, with parents smuggling burgers and portions of chips through the railings. 

Though, later in Bristol, managers at Cotham School ‘banned’ pupils from eating ‘junk food’ from nearby takeways – which included teachers on patrol issuing detentions for students ignoring the healthy eating rules. 

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