- Father accuses headteacher of 'bullying and intimidating' young pupils
- Ban was imposed to tackle 'horrendous' noise levels in canteen, she says
Under fire: Sylvia Stronach sparked outrage with her lunchtime rule
An outraged father has accused the headteacher of a primary school of 'bullying and humiliating' pupils after she told them to eat their lunch in silence or be punished.
Sylvia Stronach banned 120 children aged between seven and 11 years from talking in the canteen because the noise levels had been 'horrendous' and made it an 'uncomfortable place to be for both children and adults'.
However, parents of the pupils at Ramnoth Junior School, in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, believe the measure is unnecessarily harsh.
They reacted with anger when they learned punishment for talking during lunch included making them stand in the middle of the hall holding a teacher's or grown-up's hand and leaving their lunch all together.
Nathan Smith, who is the father of two pupils at Ramnoth and a governor at another school in Wisbech, said: 'Frankly this attitude and treatment of the children struck me as the lowest form of aggression, bullying and humiliating the pupils who have dared to have a differing opinion.'
However Miss Stronach defended her policy, saying: 'The acoustics of the dining room are not good and the cooks cannot hear what the children are asking for.'
Mr Smith, of Wisbech, said the first he knew of the rule was when his children came home and told him.
He said: 'They explained that it was sometimes very noisy but now they had to sit in silence or face a punishment involving doing lines, standing in the centre of the hall or holding a teacher's or grown up's hand.
'I personally felt that this seemed a little unfair as I see communal eating and discussion as a hugely important part of school life.'
Mr Smith said both he and his wife encouraged their children to write letters to the head outlining their concerns but when nothing happened they turned to Facebook and found other children and parents with similar concerns.
Chatter ban: Pupils of Ramnoth Juniors, pictured here at a previous centenary tea party event at the school
In a letter sent to parents since the controversy, Miss Stronach claimed parents were discussing 'misinformation' about the matter, since her 'golden silence rule' was only intended to last a week.
But she warned that if youngsters were too loud and rowdy they would 'have to go back to short periods of silence'.
She added in the letter: 'This decision lies entirely with your children.'
Miss Stronach also denied pupils were banned from clapping after birthday lunches, stressing: 'This is untrue. They are allowed to clap but they are not allowed to scream and do high-pitched whistles.'
However Mr Smith believes the rule and punishments are too harsh.
He said: 'The children should find the school to be a happy and harmonious place to learn and instead it appears that the whip is favoured over the carrot, figuratively speaking.
'In discussions with other people it transpired that the issues had been on and off for some time with some children being made to leave their lunches and stand in the centre of the hall as punishment.
'Parents are understandably distressed that attitudes towards discipline that were thought to have been left behind in the 1970s were alive and well in the school.'