A NINE-YEAR-OLD girl had her school lunch yanked from her hands when staff realised she was 55p short of the cost.

Marie Whitmore’s daughter Sophie, who attends Swindon Academy, queued to pay for her £2.05 school dinner on Friday but once staff realised she didn’t have the correct amount on her prepaid account, she had her lunch taken away.

She was given a cheese sandwich as a substitute.

Marie, 32, was furious at the way the school handled it, leaving her daughter embarrassed in front of her friends.

“The school phoned and told me what happened,” she said.

“The receptionist told me she had only been given a sandwich because she didn’t have enough money for a school dinner.

“I was a bit confused because I knew she had money on her dinner account but it turns out there was only £1.50, which was my mistake, but surely that would have bought her something a bit better than a sandwich?

“I asked why that was all she was given because I didn’t think it was fair, considering my son can get a lot more for £1 at the secondary school side.

“She shouldn’t have been put through that at all. I know it was my mistake not hers but she shouldn’t have been penalised in that way.

“There should have been a better way to go about it and it is not a large amount in the grand scheme of things.”

Like many other schools, Swindon Academy has a system whereby parents pay for their child’s meals through an online account.

But, after complaining to the head that her daughter wasn’t allowed to have the hot meal and pay the 55p at the end of the day, Marie was told it was down to other parents racking up debt — with the school being the one left paying the catering company.

“Sophie chooses to have school dinners because she enjoys them and every Friday she likes the fact it is fish and chip Friday,” Marie said.

“It must have been quite embarrassing for her and she was quite upset because she was looking forward to it but to have it taken off of her in front of everyone, she felt a bit silly.

“The head said the school are meant to let you know a day before if there is not enough credit to buy a dinner but we didn’t receive anything.”

Swindon Academy principal Ruth Robinson said: “Swindon Academy has an independent catering company which provides lunches.

“Parents are expected to pay in advance for children’s meals and they were reminded in a newsletter at the start of the year.

“In the past parents were running up debts and not paying for meals and what that means is the school is billed and the money is taken from the curriculum.

“At the end of last year we decided that wasn’t the right use of the money.

“We explained to parents that they must pay up front and every parent has an online account where they can check their child’s allowance. We said we will never see a child go hungry.

"Money adds up and that 50p would have been taken from other children’s resources.”