CHILDREN at Oxford's newest school are only allowed to eat vegetarian lunches and are banned from bringing in their own food.

The policies at The Swan School in Summertown were criticised by a parent, who said her daughter 'came home hungry' after the academy opened on Monday.

In what is thought to be a first for an Oxford state school, the new secondary has a completely vegetarian canteen and pupils have no alternative but to eat the hot meal on offer, although there are a couple of meat or fish options available for snacks during break time.

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Commenting on this paper's website, one mother said: "The only thing about this school is the vegetarian food - my daughter came home today very hungry.

"I've heard that a lot of children were very hungry as well - there should be option at dinner time [to] eat meat, I've never known a school to be like this."

However, prominent environmental campaigners and even celebrity chef Jamie Oliver have praised schools for shunning meat.

Speaking to The Herald Scotland last week about his new show, Meat-Free Meals, Mr Oliver said: "The idea of schools going veggie is a brilliant idea - it would save loads of money."

The Swan School opened to the first cohort of about 100 pupils on Monday, at a temporary site next to The Cherwell School's South Site, and will teach 1,260 pupils when it is full.

It hopes to move to its permanent building further along Marston Ferry Road next summer, which is currently under construction.

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Parents were made aware of the vegetarian policy prior to admission.

Headteacher Kay Wood said: “We have chosen to serve vegetarian meals at lunchtimes for three main reasons.

"Firstly, it allows us to serve better quality meals for the same money. Secondly, there are huge environmental and sustainability benefits.

“Most importantly, it allows students of all faiths and different dietary requirements to eat together."

She stressed the decision to provide vegetarian meals 'isn’t a judgement of people who eat meat or an attempt to make our students vegetarian.'

Ms Wood added: "Packed lunches are not banned because the students might bring in meat - we don’t allow them because we want all the children and staff to eat together and engage at lunchtime.

“Everyone is working really hard to make sure the food is delicious and nutritious.

"It goes without saying that we are committed to making sure students are not hungry – we offer free breakfast every day for all students.”

Pupils can get free porridge in the morning and can buy healthy snacks at break time, but they are not allowed to bring in any other food.

Aureus School in Didcot offers a similar policy, as reported by the Oxford Mail last year, with pupils not allowed to bring packed lunches or any drinks other than water.

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Like Aureus, the Swan also focuses on a 'family dining' style of canteen, where pupils and teachers eat together at the same tables.

The new school's website states: "Everyone is encouraged to engage in conversation and take responsibility for different aspects of the service, for example laying the table, serving food, or tidying the table at the end of the meal.

"Each lunch service is guided by a senior member of staff who leads a daily ‘reflection’ and weekly ‘gratitudes’ where students express thanks for what others have done for them during the week."

Last week a law came into force in France, making all schools serve at least one vegetarian meal per week, while all New York City state schools have introduced 'meatless Mondays' this academic year.

Some Oxfordshire schools have followed suit - Wood Green School in Witney also rolled out meat-free Monday in its canteen this term.

In 2013 a school in New York, Public School 244, gained international coverage for becoming the first vegetarian state school in the USA.

Last year prominent Oxford campaigner George Monbiot, writing in his column for The Guardian, urged more people to switch to a plant-based diet.

He warned: "We will drive living systems to collapse, unless we change our diets."

Opposing academic research has been published recently about the health impact of vegan and vegetarian diets.

Options on the Swan School's menu include lentil lasagne, minted pea and feta frittata and Quorn sausage and potato bake.