A school principal has agreed to suspend a remarkable campaign of direct action where he barred his pupils from entering shops to buy sweets before lessons.
Sean Rafferty, newly appointed head teacher of St Louis Grammar in Ballymena, has spent the last week preventing children from visiting shops located close to the school.
Following a meeting this week with local councillors and members of the school’s board of governors, the principal justified his actions by saying they helped promote healthy eating among his pupils.
Councillor Martin Clarke said that although “no agreement was reached”, the principal had “agreed to suspend his actions” ahead of a further meeting.
Mr Rafferty’s actions are reminiscent of TV chef Jamie Oliver’s (right) campaigns to weed out unhealthy foods from schools throughout the UK and the US.
Last week the principal sent a letter to parents asking for their support.
He wrote: “We are currently updating our canteen facilities and are now offering healthy options from 8.15am, including hot breakfasts, tea and toast etc.
“This means that our pupils have no need to congregate or stop off at local shops on the way to school in the morning.”
But the decision to keep pupils away from shops had angered local business owners and parents.
Chris Warwick, owner of the Braid River Service Station, said he became aware of the issue last week when he discovered the principal on his forecourt.
“He has barred them — he physically barred them last week,” he explained.
“I had heard there was a man running about the forecourt keeping children away.
“I asked him not to come onto my premises.”
Mr Warwick said he was surprised by the headmaster’s actions after always having a “good relationship with the school”.
He described the pupils of St Louis Grammar as “well behaved, pleasant and a great credit to the school”.
“It’s not fair — there are lots of shops in the area that haven’t been targeted by the headmaster,” he added.
North Antrim MLA Paul Frew said he had received a number of complaints from parents and a local business regarding the principal’s actions.
The DUP man wrote to the principal and local businesses to investigate the matter.
Despite repeated requests, Mr Rafferty was unavailable for comment.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said “each school will have their own discipline policies and it is a matter for the individual school and its board of governors”.