Mums have criticised an Oxford school for serving halal meat in children's lunches without their knowledge.

Parents of pupils at Rose Hill Primary School, in The Oval, were angered by a letter they received from headmistress Sue Mortimer.

It informed them the halal meat, which involves slaughtering animals in a special way for consumption by Muslims, had been used in all school meals as part of the school's inclusion policy.

The letter said the reason for the decision was that since halal meat was not forbidden by any religion or culture, its use would allow everyone to choose a meat dish for lunch.

But parents had not been consulted and said they were upset by news the school had become the first primary in the county to ask caterers for all meat dishes to be halal, for a trial period.

Lyndsy Johnson, whose five-year-old son Dane Lovattattends the school, said: "I am angry that the headmistress seems to think she can do anything she wants without informing parents.

"Our kids do not know what they are eating now. We have got rights as well as everybody else."

Miss Johnson, from Radford Close, said she was planning, along with another mum, to stand outside the school gates to collect signatures for a petition.

Mum-of-three Sharon Haynes, 35, from Radford Close, said: "Why should we let our kids eat halal meat?"

Mum Maria O'Callaghan, from Jerseycorr Road, said: "I don't agree with the way the animals are killed for halal meat."

Mrs Mortimer was unavailable for comment. However, RaghibAli, one of the founders of the Oxford Islam and Muslim Awareness Project, said: "The meat looks the same and tastes the same. It's just a different way the animals are reared and killed. It's not cruel - it's better for the animal."

However, Dr Taj Hargey chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, believed the school was at fault for not telling parents about the change.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said three other schools in Oxford offered halal chicken up to once a week, and two more schools had requested halal meat, but had not started serving it.

Another school was consulting parents over whether to offer a fully halal menu, the county council said.