Parents jump to defence of school in Slimming World leaflet row

The Slimming World flyer that was sent home in pupils' homework folders.
The Slimming World flyer that was sent home in pupils' homework folders.

A group of parents have spoken out in defence of Tonagh Primary School after it was criticised for sending pupils home with leaflets advertising Slimming World.

The Lisburn school was accused of “body shaming” by a parent after flyers for the weight loss organisation were sent home in pupils’ homework folders on September 1.

The angry mum, who didn’t want to be identified, was unhappy with the ‘live happy! with Slimming World’ leaflets and the message they could send to her two daughters.

“Kids, and especially younger girls, see how women are judged by their size every day, more so online with social media. How many girls get bullied about of their size and appearance?

“Primary school children who are learning to read shouldn’t be given promotional advertising suggesting happy lives are for slim people,” she told the Star.

Responding to her concerns, school principal Alison Stevenson insisted that distribution of the flyers to parents wasn’t meant to cause any offence.

“The school periodically receives requests to distribute information to parents. These requests are typically from organisations that provide services to the local community,” she explained.

“Tonagh Primary School distributes information where it may be of interest to the school community and/or parents. It is certainly not our intention to cause any offence to parents or children of this school.”

The story, carried in last week’s Star and online, provoked an angry reaction on social media, with dozens of people posting comments defending the school and its staff. Many others hit out at the parent who made the complaint for not going to the school with her concerns, while others criticised the Ulster Star for covering the story.

Commenting on the Ulster Star Facebook page, Beverley Cragg said: “This is absloutely ridiculous!! My children all go to Tonagh, my eldest has just finished 8 years of education there and they would never intentionally set out to cause offence. I am overweight myself and seen this flyer last week, the thought never crossed my mind that the school might be trying to cause offence to anyone!!!”

Pauline Irvine added: “The leaflets are sent home along with school notes for parents to read. Tonagh is a fantastic school and the principal is easy to talk to. Maybe if they’d actually bothered to contact the school instead of a local paper they would have realised that and raised any concerns that way. You can’t knock a good school because someone got offended at a leaflet advertising a local service.”

Jooly Hanna posted: “Body shaming??? How ridiculous, Slimming World is a fantastic organisation, that helps people to get healthy! Glad to see a school engaging with the community to support healthy choices.”

But not everyone was so outraged by the mother’s opposition to the Slimming World leaflets.

Emma Portis posted: “I can sort of see where the woman is coming from.. maybe not to the extent of paper.. but girls are so focused on their appearance now.. also getting bullied for it.. maybe the school could of advertised it in a different way.”

It’s understood members of the Lisburn Association of Primary School Principals were also unhappy with the article about the mother’s complaint.

The Star contacted the Association to discuss the matter, but no official comment had been received at the time of publication.