Stephanie Lapham says her son Rocky will only drink blackcurrant squash, and came home with a headache after the teacher replaced his drink with water in line with a school policy
Image: John Myers)
A furious mum has claimed her little boy was left with a headache after a teacher poured his squash down the sink on a boiling hot day because of a water-only policy.
Stephanie Lapham criticised Blackhorse Primary School in Bristol for replacing five-year-old Rocky’s squash with water on Tuesday, when temperatures hit around 28C.
She told BristolLive little Rocky will only drink blackcurrant squash, and believes it was “child neglect” to replace his drink as temperatures were so high.
The 34-year-old added Rocky came home that day with a headache and “was crying all night” due to dehydration after not drinking all day.
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Ms Lapham said: “Rocky returned to school on Monday after the summer holidays and went into Year One with a new teacher. He came home from school on Tuesday complaining of a headache all evening, really upset and holding his head.
“He has speech and language development issues, so when he was crying and told me on Tuesday night that his teacher had poured his drink down the sink, I thought he must have got that wrong, and there was no way that happened.
“As I was dropping him off to school the next day, l thought I’d quickly pop over to check with the teacher, and she said, ‘Yeah that’s right — school policy is water.’
“I said, ‘So are you saying on the hottest day of the year you poured my son’s drink away?’
“I told her Rocky had been crying all night.”
“Number one it’s sugar-free, but two, it’s nothing to do with her. It’s a sealed [opaque] bottle and she went out of her way to look inside. They’re there to learn.”
Ms Lapham refused to let Rocky go into class on Wednesday morning. She went into the headteacher Simon Botten’s office to complain, who reiterated the policy but added the teacher shouldn’t have thrown the drink away.
When she refused to leave Rocky with the teacher, Mr Botten allowed Rocky to keep his squash, and has now said children will be allowed to keep drinking squash up to the half term, so they can adapt to the change.
But a furious Ms Lapham said: “They put different options on the dinner menu because children are fussy. You could understand it more if I was giving him Red Bull or Coca Cola, but it’s a bit of squash. In Reception he was allowed squash. He would take a bottle in each day.
“He will not drink water. We will go on holiday and have to take bottles of squash, because he’s so particular and he likes routine. For his school dinner he has a plain ham sandwich every day without fail.
“Am I happy with that? Not really, but at least he’s having something, and it’s the same with the squash. I can’t help it if he won’t drink water. It’s not their place to judge.”
She added: “The head told me the policy will not change under any circumstances and I’m to ‘wean him off’. Rocky’s not a drug addict. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
“What Rocky brings in is 99 per cent water with a few drops of squash. I said that it’s worse having dehydrated children who end up in hospital.
“I suggested Rocky could bring in a bottle of Volvic sugar-free water with a hint of blackcurrant, lemon or strawberry flavour in it, and the head also refused that.”
Would Rocky drink Volvic’s flavoured water? “All I can do is try to suggest things,” Ms Lapham added.
In a statement, Mr Botten said that Blackhorse prides itself on the emphasis on children’s health, and brought in the squash ban over concerns of tooth decay.
He said: “Our success in sports is known throughout the region, with a number of children going on to run at a national level — some for Team GB’s athletics academy, and one, Tom Wilstead, earning a sports scholarship to Colston’s School, which led to him being signed to Bristol Bears first team, something the whole school community is delighted to see.
“We are very proud of this culture we have created and therefore look to ensure that our children are taught about healthy diets from an early age.
“Like every other school in the local area, and on the advice of the NHS school nurses, Blackhorse has a long-standing policy of only allowing children to bring water in their water bottles. This is because children are allowed to drink from their water bottles throughout the day and sipping on squash throughout the day is known to cause tooth decay.
“During the pandemic, our priority was to get our children safety and happily back into school, so our staff didn’t impose this rule as clearly as we usually would. However, now we are looking forward to a more normal school year, we do want children to get back into healthy habits.
“The teacher was following our school policy, by replacing Rocky’s squash with water, but we discussed Ms Lapham’s concerns with her when she told her that Rocky hadn’t drunk the water provided on a hot day. I apologised that the school’s policy hadn’t been clearly communicated to her and that Rocky was left thirsty.”
Mr Botten agreed to allow squash on Tuesday “as it was hot again”, but he reiterated that the water-only policy would “eventually need to be followed”. He says he offered the school nurse’s help with “strategies to encourage Rocky to drink water”.
“Having discussed the issue with staff and the school nurse, we agreed that, as the pandemic had led to our water policy being loosened, we would allow those children whose parents tell us they don’t like water to bring squash until half-term so that parents can gradually get the children used to drinking water over this period,” he added.
“We felt that this was an appropriate compromise and we communicated this to Ms Lapham and the other parents.”