A SCHOOL chief has denied claims children are being forced to sit in silence when they eat lunch.

St Peter’s Droitwich CE Academy has responded to criticism from parents who say the lunch time rules are "punitive”.

Kate Brunt, the CEO of Rivers Academy Trust, which runs the school, said the pupils "are not sitting in silence, they are sitting quietly".

This followed one parent telling the Worcester News that his children are 'shouted at' if they speak during lunch time.

“That’s their social time," he said. "I’m absolutely livid as a parent.

"It goes against everything we are trying to achieve in education. I’ve never heard of this at any school.”

Another parent said: “I think it’s awful that they have enforced this rule.”

Mrs Brunt said the introduction of quiet lunch times followed complaints from some pupils.

"It came about last June as a result of a few children saying they thought it was very noisy," she said. "They didn’t enjoy their lunch. The school can take 250 to 300 children at a time, that is how many can be in the school hall.

"They are not sitting in silence, they are sitting quietly. They are allowed to speak but the noise is managed. They are not allowed to shout across the tables.”

She added: “I spoke to the children and they were overwhelmingly positive about it. They say they feel more relaxed.

"With the acoustics in the hall it can be very noisy. We need to be able to sit down and enjoy lunch. We are talking all the time about children’s mental health and I think lunch time should be a really sociable time. That time together is important for adults and children. Having time to sit down and relax with their friends is important.”

Mrs Brunt refuted the claim that teachers shout at children if they speak: “When I have been at the school I have never heard ant teacher raise their voice. It is managed in a pleasant way.”

She added: “I am more than happy to talk to any parent. We have an open door policy. The headteacher Tracey O’Keeffe-Pullan is out on the gate every day. She is a very visible head.

"Working with parents is crucial to us. If they have got any concerns they can always go and speak to the school. Also they can come and have a look at the lunch hall – it’s a really nice place to eat.”