School dinners are, by definition, disgusting. The smell that pervades whatever space they are served in, soaked into the very fabric of the furniture and architecture, degrades whatever other uses that space is put to; gym, assembly, the school play, orchestra rehearsal, examinations, they are all tainted by that smell. Parents' evenings are inhibited by it, as the rearing back in disgust effect is exacerbated by the wave of memories of school dinner experiences.
And now Labour is threatening to make the school dinner a universal punishment; refusal will offend (as it so often does) so refusal will not be available. Under the functional guise of nutritional benefit and meeting need without discrimination, the prison-house shades will close about our growing children, in the form of swill on a plastic tray with indentations for slop-with-gravy, and slop-with-custard.
The school day will stretch from early morning to the evening, without hope of escape into the free world from 12.30 to quarter to two. Any expression of aesthetic or gustatory discrimination will be met with cultural aggression.
Eating with others is a very important social act, highly elaborated and often determinant in setting hierarchies and exchange relationships. It is not a suitable activity to be imposed in demonstrably failing schools.