Confectionery: the new contraband

A little girl from Watford has been sent home from a school trip - for eating chocolate.

Rob Lyons

Topics Politics

The war on chocolate and other naughty-but-nice treats appears to have reached new heights with the news that a little girl has been sent home from a school trip for smuggling snacks for a midnight feast.

Holli McCann, aged 11, left for a trip to the Isle of Wight with her school, Bromet Primary in Watford, on 1 July. The following day, her mother was told to phone the school’s hotel urgently. But far from the school reporting that young Holli was ill or injured, her mother was told that she was being sent home for eating confectionery and misbehaving on the beach the previous day.

Holli’s account of events is that she had stayed up to have a midnight feast with the three friends she was sharing her room with. The contraband in question was (drum roll) a Kit Kat, a Fudge bar and a Freddo. The following day, the pupils handed in letters they had written to be sent home. A teacher read Holli’s description of her minor nocturnal adventure and alerted headteacher Yvonne Graves, who then conducted a search of Holli’s room and suitcase, before deciding to send her home.

Holli’s mum told the Watford Observer: ‘This was a search for chocolate, but was carried out in such a manner you would have thought they were running an international drug-smuggling operation from their hotel room.’

spiked asked Hertfordshire County Council about the incident and it gave us the following statement: ‘Before the Year 6 trip to the Isle of Wight, parents and pupils were asked to sign a behaviour charter which clearly outlines how pupils should behave during the trip. This is to ensure that everyone can have a safe and enjoyable holiday. It was made clear that breaking any of the rules within the charter would result in parents being asked to take their child home, as was the case with this pupil.’

A press officer told spiked it was standard practice for such behaviour charters to be agreed prior to school trips, but what was contained in them varied from school to school.

What else may or may not have happened on the trip is between the school teachers and young Holli. But on the face of it, sending a child home from a comparatively expensive school trip – £300 plus £100 for equipment, apparently – for the crime of bringing snacks seems extraordinary, especially as Holli’s mother then had to undertake a round trip of roughly 200 miles to collect her daughter.

Firstly, it seems bizarre that the school could not deal with this minor infraction with an equally minor form of discipline while allowing Holli to stay with her group. Secondly, it’s worth questioning whether teachers should be reading pupil’s letters in this way at all, no matter how young they are.

Most importantly, why on earth was eating confectionery even included in a ‘behaviour charter’ in the first place? The fact that schools are now so uptight about handling children that they have to formalise the rules in such a way is bad enough. But to treat sweets as so deadly dangerous that they can be the subject of draconian action only illustrates the nutty monomania that now surrounds children’s diets.

In this case, a school trip with friends has been ruined, but beyond that the obsession with ‘junk food’ now poisons many aspects of school life, with endless lessons about obesity and new school food plans urging headteachers to ban packed lunches on the basis that they are less healthy than school meals.

The war on drugs is boneheaded and irrational enough; trying to replicate it in schools as a war on sweets is truly mad.

Rob Lyons is commissioning editor at spiked and author of Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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