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Mum’s anger as teacher pours away son’s squash at school in 28C heat

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Stephanie Lapham, 34, feels Blackhorse Primary School’s behaviour amounts to “child neglect” as they replace Rocky’s squash with water on Tuesday. However, her son refuses to drink anything but blackcurrant juice and so when he came home, he said he had a headache and was dehydrated with temperatures nearing 30C across the UK.

The school, which is in Emersons Green, Bristol, says it will allow Rocky to drink squash for the next seven weeks, until half-term, after which he must follow the water-only policy. It is “very proud” of its culture of “physical health and wellbeing”.

But Ms Lapham remains angry with the teacher, who poured the sugar-free drink down the sink during Rocky’s second day in Year One.

Speaking to Bristol Live, the mum said: “He (Rocky) 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.”

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

Stephanie Lapham, Rocky’s mother

Ms Lapham claims Rocky was allowed to drink the squash in Reception. She says she is aware of complaints from three other parents of pupils in Year One, after their children’s squash was allegedly thrown away in the school.  

The headteacher confirmed Rocky’s teacher “following our school policy” and said squash isn’t allowed in school because it causes tooth decay.

But Ms Lapham, from leafy Downend, Bristol, said: “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.

“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% 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.”

Ms Lapham said her son remains “confused” with the situation, having drank squash in Reception.

Blackhorse Primary says the drinks policy was less strict during the pandemic.

The school, rated as Good by Ofsted after its last inspection, added it places a huge emphasis on health and wellbeing. It even has its own farm and a horticulture teacher.

Simon Botten, headteacher at the small school of around 400 kids, 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 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.”

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