Dinner lady fired after serving gammon to Muslim pupil


A school has been accused of over-reacting after a dinner lady was sacked after she accidentally served gammon to a Muslim pupil.

Alison Waldock, 51, put the pork dish on seven-year-old Khadija Darr's plate after the youngster asked for it.

But the school's headteacher saw Khadija about to eat the meat - which Muslims are not allowed to eat - and raised the alarm in the dinner hall.

Alison – a dinner lady for 11 years- was fired after the school told the girl's parents, Rumana and Zahid.

They contacted bosses at caterers Lunchtime UK after hearing of the error at Queen Edith Primary School in Cambridge. The firm then fired Alison for gross misconduct due to 'negligence, carelessness or idleness'.

However, British group Campaign Muslim4UK branded Alison's sacking 'heavy-handed'.

Chairman Inayat Buglawala said: "Dismissing a dinner lady for inadvertently serving pig meat is an overreaction.

"The most sensible way to rectify such mistakes is to improve awareness of the pupils' dietary requirements while apologising to the pupils and their parents.

"Mistakes occasionally happen. I'm sure the overwhelming majority of Muslim parents would be understanding."

Mum of two Alison said: "I feel the school and catering company made me a scapegoat so they can't be seen as politically incorrect. I was really upset when I found out what I'd done.

"I'd never have done something like this on purpose. It was a simple mistake - I was so gutted with the school's reaction. I really enjoyed the job and I'd never had any problems before."

She said there were around 40 pupils with various dietary requirements and it was impossible to keep track of them with the documents she was given.

She added: "I asked, 'Do you want the gammon?' and she said yes, so I served it to her.

"When the headteacher found out she was not happy. But there are 200-odd children to feed and I don't know who is a Muslim or who is a vegetarian.

"There is a list, but the pupils don't wear name badges or stickers and we can't know them all.

"I respect all of the children's beliefs, religions and meal choices. This was just one mistake. I think firing me was really harsh."

Khadija's parents claimed the school told them Alison wasn't concerned about the error.

Rumana, 33, said: "The person there said the dinner lady didn't care or wasn't that bothered."

Lunchtime UK Operations director Peter McAleese said: "Anyone losing their job is regretful. But there was a full and transparent procedure that Alison went through - as well as an appeals procedure which she lost."