The school that created playground ‘rich and poor zones’ separating kids whose parents didn’t pay £6 donation for new sports equipment has ended the scheme “with immediate effect” after outrage by parents.
Wednesbury Oak Academy Chair of Governors confirmed: “We have listened to the concerns raised and will be ending the scheme with immediate effect. We are a school that believes in putting our children at the heart of everything we do.”
The decision comes less than 24 hours after Mirror.co.uk highlighted the ‘no pay, no play’ scheme at Wednesbury Oak Academy which was launched last week, sparking fierce criticism and a petition from parents.
The parent council at the West Midlands school asked for a voluntary £6 donation per child to purchase the equipment for pupils to play with at lunchtime.
But when the scheme launched children who hadn’t paid were separated from those who had, to the dismay of outraged parents.
A petition over the segregation claims that the parent council requested children who hadn’t paid be allowed to use the equipment anyway to avoid “social and financial discrimination”.
But headteacher Maria Bull defended the move and said she was ‘on the verge’ of calling the police after claiming she had received multiple threats from disgruntled parents.
She told Mirror.co.uk: “Parents have behaved in a highly threatening manner on Facebook, telling me ‘I need a good slapping’. This is not the way to behave.
“We have systems in place where parents can come and address their concerns. I am on the verge of calling the police.”
She added that the school ‘didn’t have’ any parents who could not afford the £6 cost and they had had ‘eight months’ to pay.
Mrs Bull said buying the equipment was not her idea but the school’s parent council.
“I would prefer children made up their own games in the playground,” she told Mirror.co.uk.
The academy, which is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, has some 450 pupils and about 50 parents paid the £6.
Mrs Bull said this amounted to “just 15 pence per week” and all that was purchased was a football, a rugby ball, a slinky, two skipping ropes and some a tennis balls.
The children whose parents have paid are taken onto the grass and a member of staff organises games using the equipment.
She added that a ‘couple of times a week’ a child whose parents had contributed could invite a friend that hadn’t paid to come and play with the toys.
Mrs Bull added that staff also run after school clubs for £2 a week, breakfast clubs for £3 and subsidise school trips.
“Schools get an awful lot of bad press for doing things that benefit the children,” Mrs Bull said.
“We are asking for just £6 a year. We are talking about a 20 minute area outside with some equipment. We are running this as a lunchtime activity club.
“I wouldn’t ask parents to pay for another child’s after school club. Parents threatening staff, the headteacher, it’s unacceptable. This is cyber bulling of a school.”
A petition, started by Angela Moore, stated that parents, children and staff were “disgusted” by the scheme that they had branded “no pay, no play”.
“The playground was separated into groups of “paid” and “unpaid” students,” she wrote.
“This has caused outright disgust from children, parents, grandparents, staff and such like.
“The parents that have paid and parents that haven’t are totally against the separation of the children as this can cause upset, bullying and social exclusion amongst other things.
“We therefore request the ‘scheme’ to be discontinued as its just not something that any of us wish to be associated with.”
The petition had garnered some 600 signatures with people branding the scheme “outrageous”.
One Wednesbury Oak parent admitted her son had been “upset he couldn’t play with the new equipment”.
Another parent said: “Outrageous. Working in a primary school myself I cannot begin to imagine the upset this has caused the children.
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“Or, even being human being this idea is just ridiculous. What an awful example these children are being shown.”
“Yes it’s only £6.00 but that can be a worrying amount to some people,” added another.
Labour MP for West Bromwich Adrian Bailey said: “Sandwell schools are facing a financial crisis due to cuts in Government funding.
“Schools should not be put in to a position where they are forced to approach parents for contributions for equipment that would usually be paid for using the school’s mainstream budget.
“Inevitably this results in some parents being unable to contribute. This is especially true in a lower income are like Sandwell, leading to a culture of social division and resentment.
“All children should have equal access to education, including equipment and facilities. This case is just one example of the consequences of Government cuts to school funding.”