Fuming parents have branded a school "shocking" after discovering their children are being asked to eat their lunch outside in the "freezing cold".

Children at The Marlborough School in Woodstock are being forced to eat lunch outside “shivering while eating their meals”, said worried mums.

They claim their children are regularly falling ill and insist that classrooms or other indoor spaces could be used instead. 

Parents told the Oxford Mail that the school's dining hall does not have enough capacity for the schoolchildren at lunchtime. 

But the school has refused to confirm or deny this.

One parent said pupils were forced to eat outside "unless it is heavily raining or snowing".

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“My daughter has fallen ill for the second time in three weeks," she said.

"While I understand the importance of fresh air, it seems excessive to have them eat outside for an entire hour every day.

"The children have to pretend to use the loo in order to stay warm.”

Another replied: “It’s shocking. My son is continually ill with colds."

Oxford Mail: The Marlborough SchoolThe Marlborough School (Image: Olivia Christie, Newsquest)The parent of student who left school in June said: "Sadly this rule applied all through her time there.

“My daughter wouldn’t eat lunch most days because of this.

"The canteen is way too small for the size of the school. They can’t watch all of the children in their separate form rooms – the amount of staff needed would be enormous so they ‘corral’ the children into this one area."

Another parent asked: “Where do they all sit? On the floor? We are not in the Dark Ages."

An ex-pupil added: "When I was there six years ago, that wasn’t the norm so I wonder what happened between that time that has changed now.”

Many parents have emailed the school to complain but have had no reply.

In July the River Learning Trust, which is responsible for the school, applied for planning permission for a new two-storey teaching building to meet the increasing demand from housing growth in the area.

The new block will allow the school to take in additional 30 pupils per year group at the beginning of the 2024 academic year.

Oxfordshire County Council said "popular and successful schools such as Marlborough" receive many applications from beyond their catchment.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “We are working with the River Learning Trust – responsible for Marlborough School – to plan its expansion, funded by contributions secured by Oxfordshire County Council from local housing developments.

“Whilst the school is currently large enough for the existing local population, the planned expansion relates to anticipated future demand for places, resulting from housing developments.

“Some of these developments are underway, others permitted or planned.

“Although it will take some years before these new housing developments are fully populated with secondary aged pupils, Oxfordshire County Council is already preparing for future growth.

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"The planning application has been submitted, in good time to ensure the school can expand in line with the local population."

He added: “Across Oxfordshire, where there is population growth, we have been actively creating additional school places both through expanding existing schools (for example, Woodstock CE Primary School is also expanding this year) and through opening new schools where necessary.

“In the last 10 years, 18 new schools have opened in the county, including three in September 2023.

"This is mostly funded through developer contributions secured from housing developers, along with funding from central government.”

The Marlborough School declined to comment.