Headteacher to open kitchens to provide free meals for all Leeds children in need if coronavirus shuts schools

A Leeds primary school headteacher has agreed to open up his school's kitchens so food can be prepared for those in need across the city in the event of a coronavirus shutdown.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 1:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 1:33 pm

Chris Dyson, head teacher of Parklands Primary School, said making sure vulnerable children were fed was his number one priority.

Read More

Read More
Leeds primary school opens to serve 800 Christmas dinners to kids who won't get ...

"We could end up being shut for four weeks, or until September. We don't know," he said.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Chris Dyson outside Parklands Primary School in Seacroft.

"The number one priority is getting food in bellies. These kids have the right to food."

On Twitter he called for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Department for Education to follow his lead.

Parklands would effectively become one of a number of kitchen hubs in the event of school's closing, with Leeds City Council catering staff producing enough food to feed every child on free school meals in Leeds.

Mr Dyson also said he planned to send food directly to the school's 80 most vulnerable families, but that panic buying at supermarkets would make it difficult to buy enough stock.

Mr Dyson celebrating the school's extraordinary turnaround in 2018.

He has enlisted the help a private school, who will increase orders from their suppliers if necessary.

Parklands is still open, despite Mr Dyson sending home staff in vulnerable groups, because there are fewer pupils in school.

Pupil attendance has dropped from 87 per cent on Monday to just under 50 per cent today (Wednesday, March 18).

Year groups have been mixed and the normal curriculum abandoned.

The headteacher said there were "mixed messages" from Government over school closures, but that ultimately he was "following the party line" while making sure his vulnerable pupils are cared for.

He and his teaching staff will also pitch in with cleaning, as many school cleaning teams are now running on skeleton staff due to self-isolation, Mr Parklands said.

"We are in a really infection environment that needs deep cleaning even more than usual," he added.

Mr Dyson singled out "outstanding" Phil Mellen, Leeds City Council's deputy director for learning, for praise in the way Leeds is responding to the crisis.

"We are all in this together," Mr Dyson said. "It doesn't matter if you are left wing, right wing, Tory or Labour."

He said independent schools in Leeds were also concerned about where their foreign pupils would stay in the event of closures.

"Times like these bring out the best in the staff at schools," Mr Dyson said. "They are the lifeline."