For those who may be unaware, academies are run by a governing body and are independent from the local council. Not only can they follow a different curriculum, they can also run their own facilities, including catering.
Basically, academies are small businesses with the day-to-day running of the school overseen by the head teacher or principal, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain.
Statistically, 2,075 of the 3,381 secondary schools in the UK are currently academies, and 2,440 of the 16,766 primary schools have academy status and the plan is to grant all of them academic status by 2020.
Other schools fall into the following categories: community schools, controlled by the local council; foundation schools, with more freedom to change the way they do things; grammar schools, run by the council, a foundation body or a trust; and special schools .
Whatever the status, schools are expected to provide food, and not just the pink custard and chocolate concrete that a generation of people associate with school dinners.
According to the Government guidelines, “food served in some schools and academies in England must meet the school food standards so that children have healthy, balanced diets”.
This must include high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables, bread, other cereals and potatoes. It must not include drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate or sweets in school meals and vending.
So who is responsible for the food in schools? That falls under the remit of the school governors who have to ensure that a school lunch is provided for pupils where a meal is requested. There is no requirement that lunches must be hot but it is recommended that a hot meal should be available.
Finances and public accountability, therefore, are very much under scrutiny and it is down to the governing bodies to ensure that value for money and return on investment are met as well as national school food standards.
The catering arrangements within schools are vital. A number of schools employ external caterers, but for those wanting to balance the budget, investing in an appliance, such as the Rational oven range, can bring significant savings over the long term.
Investing in a new, modern kitchen and high quality catering equipment, can transform school catering services and the food quality of meals will increase as a result of more efficient catering equipment.
Governing bodies are strongly encouraged to work with the schools whether or not they are academies, to develop a whole school food policy in the school’s approach to its provision of food, food education (including practical cooking), the role of the catering team as part of the wider school team and the school’s strategy to increase the take-up of school places. With a Rational oven in place, the battle not only to achieve the national food standards, but to maintain them on a regular basis is not a difficult task.