Tag Archives: schools
Over 300,000 sixth form students collected their A-level results last month. Record numbers have been accepted onto university courses this year. So colleges and universities will soon be busy as well.
As far as subjects go, one subject has doubled its number of candidates over the past 10 years: further maths. The number of entrants has gone up by 110% since 2006, from 7,270 to 15,257. Modern foreign languages (French, German and Spanish) have continued to decline. The number of EU students placed at UK universities and colleges was also the highest on record, increasing to 26,800. It appears Brexit has something to do with these high numbers.
Back to the school situation. This year controversially, exam marking will be changed and O-levels brought back. This marks a major change to the education system in general. Now that it is compulsory that kids have to be either in full time education or get apprenticeships by the time they are 18, some experts are calling on schools and colleges to offer more skills-based subjects.
Marcus Mason, head of education and skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), warned that businesses are reporting “huge skills gaps” and said that the skills taught at school must “truly improve” young people’s employability.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, called on the Government to make sure that quality higher-level apprenticeships are available to those not continuing in higher education.
Which brings me to ask, whatever happened to old-fashioned home economics? Back in the day, even the most academically-challenged pupil came out of school knowing how to hem a pair of trousers and dish up a passable potato, cheese and onion pie! The aim of home economics was highlighted as follows: “teaching home economics in schools is to help to prepare boys and girls for some important aspects of everyday living and the adult responsibilities of family life.”
Sadly, GCSE home economics was abandoned in 2014 with the last exams for students in this subject taking place in 2017. The good news is that, in the meantime, the Government has developed a new GCSE, Food Preparation and Nutrition, which will be available for first teaching in September 2016.
According the Government, this two-unit specification will offer students “relevant skills and knowledge which are transferable to other settings, enhancing career opportunities and providing a satisfying course of study for candidates of various ages and from diverse backgrounds.”
This is one innovation that has to be welcomed in the context of its potential for apprenticeships. It answers the question of the lack of skills in practical subjects and provides an opportunity for those who recoil from traditional academic courses to learn a useful and potentially employable skill.
Cooking is a life-skill but as with any skill, there are those who will be better than others. The new GCSE introduced this academic year should be encouraged by as many schools and colleges as possible. This will encourage more young people to become familiar with food preparation from an early age. Which will ensure a future generation of trained and knowledgeable apprentice cooks and chefs when they make their choices at 16. This can only be good for catering businesses everywhere.
“Give me a good sharp knife and a good sharp cheese and I’m a happy man.” Wise words indeed from Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin, but even he would be spoiled for choice if he ventured down amongst our South West cheese.
Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall are renowned for their regional foods and cheese is integral to the menus of each region. We are all familiar with Cheddar and Gloucester Red varieties, but throw in a Dunlop or a Forest Oak and it gets more intriguing!
From Gloucester to Cornwall
Woefuldane Organic Dairy is a small family-run business in Gloucestershire which produces organic cheeses, such as Dunlop. The cheese was originally from a town called Dunlop in Ayrshire, then Woefuldane bought the setup 20 years ago when the original supplier sold up. From an ancient recipe, the cheese is now produced in Gloucestershire with a buttery texture and strong flavour.
Another favourite cheese is Forest Oak, which started life as a cloth ripened Dunlop. According to the company, “Forest Oak is smoked twice over oak chips at Severn & Wye Smokery in the Forest of Dean and this is noticeable in its rich yet subtle smoky taste and wonderful crumbly texture”.
Moving down to Dorset, the Woolsery Cheese Company has been the home of award-winning cheeses since 1992, with all produce suitable for vegetarians and gluten free. As well as flavours such as Meadowsweet soft cheese and English Herb Cheese, the company also regularly produces new flavours, including the soft mould ripened cheese, Nanette, which won Silver at the Taste of the West Cheese Awards. This traditionally handmade camembert style cheese ripens to give a white moulded rind with a firmer centre. What makes the company unique however is the launch of cheese wedding cakes to order!
Dorset Red Cheese
Still in Dorset, cheese lovers must taste the Ford Farm’s Dorset Red, a smoked cheese from cows on the company’s West Dorset Estate. Ford claims the cheese is “smooth and velvety, subtly infused with tones of smoked oak, reminiscent of barbecues and long, lazy summer days. Once bitten, forever smitten!” Other flavours include Cave Aged (a cloth-bound Cheddar aged deep within the Wookey Holes Caves), Billies’ Goat Cheddar and Oakwood smoked Cheddar.
In the Devon town of Newton St Cyres is Quickes, boasting a cheese-making legacy of nearly five centuries. 14 generations of the same family have been handcrafting cheeses from specially-bred cows on the farm, producing artisanal cheddar to suit every palate, from the Quicke’s Buttery cheddar to Quicke’s Mature and the two-year-matured Quicke’s Vintage.
Finally, Cornwall boasts a huge choice of cheeses, including the nettle covered Cornish Yarg which is only produced by Lynher Dairies in Ponsanooth in Cornwall but is exported over the world. 2016/17 will see the launch of the newest cheese, Cornish Kern, which is made to a different recipe and is longer maturing with a black waxy rind. The company also produces the Wild Garlic Cornish Yarg.
Cheese is a great British favourite and with so many varieties and flavours to choose from, the South West of England is way up there in cheese manufacture. So there can be no excuses really to prevent the region’s pubs, cafes and restaurants from showcasing truly local South West cheese on their menus.
The prospect of the ovens failing at Lambrook School is too serious to contemplate so as a precaution, the school uses AC Services (Southern) under a pre-arranged maintenance agreement.
Twice a year, the Rational gas ovens – one a SCC WE101 model and the other a SCC WE 201 model – are serviced and should the school require any ad hoc attention, then AC Services are on hand to deliver!
Lambrook is a thriving independent school which is home to 510 boys and girls plus 100+ staff. The Lambrook experience combines first class teaching and superb facilities with traditional values, in the idyllic, tranquil surroundings of the beautiful Berkshire countryside.
According to Sophie Connery, the Catering Manager of the school’s external catering company, The Brookwood Partnership, the relationship with AC Services is utterly essential to the smooth running of the kitchen. “When we first starting using Rational ovens at Lambrook School there was a maintenance company on call, but AC Services came recommended from Rational and we haven’t looked back since.”
Sophie admits that there are few major things that go wrong, but the small little niggles can sometimes be just as annoying. “It really doesn’t matter what the problem is, large or small, AC Services come out and see us. We had noisy dry heat burners and the engineers were sent out immediately,” continues Sophie. “The beauty of AC Services is that nothing is too much trouble and the engineers have fully stocked vans so there is never a delay in waiting for parts.”
The Rational ovens are obviously used on a daily basis. “The appliances are completely reliable but no-one can foresee some of the variables that occur. The school operates five days a week as a day school with Saturday school for the senior pupils. Boarding at Lambrook is very flexible and enables children to board anything from 5 nights a week to 1 night here and there which means that there is no downtime for the ovens. With the help of AC Services, we make sure that the ovens are always kept in the best possible condition.”
Attitude is the one other thing that puts AC Services top of the list as far as Sophie is concerned. “It doesn’t matter when we call, what we need or how far the engineer is from us,” concludes Sophie, “from the ladies in the office who take the call to the engineers, there is always a friendly voice or a smile and service is exemplary.”
Lambrook School has an exemplary record academically and as far as cuisine goes, the food is top notch! A good chef and a good Rational oven maintained by AC Services is the winning combination!
Times are changing within the education market. Debate was raging on about the decision of the government to turn all schools into academies by 2020 until last week’s unforeseen u-turn. But the threat is still there with a shift from all to most.
Speculation is rife over the ongoing fate of local authorities, once the sole provider of budgets and control over schools. What it means is that schools and colleges will be increasingly responsible for their own budgeting.
This is all very well with items such as school equipment, paper, books and associated purchases. There are already established and specialist vendors for these types of materials. But when it comes to buying kitchen equipment, many schools and colleges are inexperienced and frankly, don’t know where best to turn.
The purchase of a catering appliance is vastly different from buying a domestic oven. And once the purchase has been made, it doesn’t end there. An oven has to be regularly serviced and maintained to prevent any unforeseen catastrophes occurring which, in schools and colleges, could mean a lot of pupils going hungry!
Since September 2014, all schools have to provide free school lunches for pupils who qualify. This has meant that educational establishments have been busier with kitchen refurbishment and upgrade than ever before.
Historically, AC Services (Southern) has been responsible for maintaining a number of Rational ovens within the region. Currently we have been requested to service 42 schools with some 70 appliances total across Gloucestershire on a contract that has recently been renewed.
But our experience of the educational sector’s needs is much wider ranging from Oxford colleges, private schools to FE colleges with many on one of our maintenance contracts .
According to Helen Hagger, MD at AC Services, one of the main priorities is educating the owners about the benefits of regular servicing.
“Many ovens may be in warranty still but they also need a regular service to make sure they are working properly and performing to their optimum levels,” she advises. “We are dedicated to working with our customers in the education sector to ensure that all schools and colleges comply with the standards for food that the government and other organisations demand.”
In addition, Rational is helping make life easier for cooks with the recent launch of a new app allowing users of the Rational SelfCookingCenter to operate the system from an iPhone or iPad. If connected to the same network, the screen content of the SelfCookingCenter is transferred and displayed in full to the remote device.
“This app is extremely useful to school cooks and head chefs who are juggling other responsibilities,” continues Helen. “As a long-term partner with Rational, we are doing our bit by ensuring that the ovens are serviced regularly.
We have a range of service packages to suit every budget, and our aim is to make owners and decision-makers schedule downtime for the appliances for maintenance. So whether you are primary school, academy, private or public school, university or further education establishment, as long as you are in our area we can help you.”
So give Helen and the team a call on 01454 322 222 to find out more.
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.
As Christmas is at the end of the week, we’ve allowed the writer of our news a week off from the show reports, the case studies of our customers, the industry news, Rational ovens tips, suggested events and alternative food sourcing.
So with those in mind like AC Services, who are still working hard to deliver the season’s celebrations, she has written the following fun ode to hopefully bring a smile back to those who are flagging.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and throughout the land
Every oven from Rational was taking a stand.
Turkeys and geese were about to start squealing
And the vegetable mountains were in dire need of peeling.
“Enough is enough” said the leading head oven
We’ve been working all year and see what we’ve proven…
Perfect roasting and boiling and flawless menus
From small little cafes to top class venues.
But we’re knackered and worn out and we want a break too
So you cooks of the land, it’s your turn to stew!”
What a dilemma in kitchens across the land
Whose Xmas depended on Rational’s hand.
But our heroes stepped up at AC Services Southern
And without a thought for themselves, they approached every oven.
A tweak here, a twist there, and some TLC from the team
And the Rational ovens were restored to full steam.
The moral of the tale is take care of your appliance
Or face the consequence of their ill-timed defiance.
Simply call us or email or use the website
For a last minute service to avoid the plight
Of an undercooked turkey, or an overdone starter…
Happy Christmas from Rational’s foremost service partner!
All the staff at AC Services Southern wish everyone in pubs, restaurants, hotels, food service, schools, colleges and catering establishments in South West England and South Wales a Happy stress-free Christmas and a Prosperous 2016.
The past few days have seen visitors flock to the Business Design Centre in London for the annual lunch! exhibition, now in its eighth year.
Following its exceptional success last year, the show has returned with all things new and interesting for those involved in the food-to-go sector.
In 2014, lunch! won Best Trade Show at the Exhibition News Awards. It was also shortlisted for Best Trade Show and Best Trade Show Marketing Campaign in 2015. lunch! won Best Marketing Campaign of the Year in 2012 and was named Best UK Trade Show Exhibition under 2,000sqm for two years running in 2010 and 2011 at the Association of Event Organisers’ Excellence Awards. So it’s certainly one to keep tabs on.
Over 6,000 attendees were expected from some of the UK’s biggest food-to-go operators, caterers, food retailers, and representative in their thousands from independent and multiple cafés, coffee houses and sandwich shops. Because of prior demand, a new hall was allocated for use, with an unprecedented 350 exhibiting companies, up by 25% from last year.
Talks and Product Launches
Numerous seminars took place including The Buying Masterclass: Top Tips For Food-To-Go Buyers, Indulgence Is The New Health and most interestingly, Bringing Potbelly To The UK. In addition there were useful tips on how to build a brand, marketing, advertising and designing food-to-go successfully. These sessions however, were overshadowed by what some deemed as the highlight of the entire event, the eagerly awaited and hard fought battle of the British Smoothie Championships Finals 2015.
There were also several new products making their debut at the lunch! show, including The Real Soup Co’s new single serve pots of fresh, ready to heat and serve soup for the food-to-go sector. Available in five popular flavours. Jax Coco is launching its new Coconut Chips Available with sea salt, wasabi or chilli & lime, and vegan, gluten and trans-fat free.
Mom’s Fabulous Hot Dogs launched a skinless quarter pounder made from prime cuts of beef with a firm, smooth texture and a meaty flavour and Ingenious Foods introduced Gourmosa, a range from the sub-continent with a modern twist, including Samosa Pie, Samosa Pot and Oven Bake Samosa. (Bit unfortunate if you don’t like samosas).
Additionally, Proper Pudding launched five premium, sugar or refined sugar free, chilled puddings: Lemon Jelly with Lime & Coconut Pudding; Orange & Honey Posset and Strawberries & Cream.
Fresh Mediterranean delicacies came from new exhibitor the Pietercil Group Beliès including unpasteurised olives, antipasti and tapenades and its new ‘on the go’ Greek olives snack pack.
Perhaps taking inspiration from the Great British Bake-off, Cakesmiths introduced a new Artisan Loaf Range (including Smashing Pumpkin, Banana and Chocolate Bread, Poached Pear and Ginger, and Lemon & Courgette) and finally, Calbee UK showcased its savoury snacks – Yushoi Snapea rice sticks. Baked and made using green peas, they are inspired by Japan and available in four flavours: Lightly Salted, Smoked Salt & Szechuan Pepper, Sweet Chilli & Lemon and Soy & Balsamic Vinegar.
Space constraints prevent us from listing more delightful and innovative products. But as we always say here at AC Services (Southern), to make a good product, you need a good oven, so any catering company or restaurant or café intending to stock and serve these new products, please ensure that your oven is capable of cooking them to the standards required to bring out the tastes and flavours.
Actually, it comes to quite a few towns, including two of the most historic in the South West, Gloucester and Exeter where games will be played. While Cheltenham, Bristol, Swansea and Cardiff all welcome teams at ceremonies involving rugby clubs and schools.
Kingsholm, Gloucester’s ground is said to have the noisiest crowd in the league, and the Shed Stand is as familiar to rugby fans as the Kop is to football punters. With a total capacity of 16,500, tickets for the Rugby World Cup matches are like gold dust, with teams from as far away as the USA, Japan, Argentina and South Africa making their appearance in the town for the first round of matches.
Gloucester boasts a prestigious history, with its landmark cathedral and the traditional limestone villages of the Cotswolds. Its nautical history is represented by the rejuvenated Victorian quays and canals, and it was once home to the infamous Dick Whittington.
Today, the city is gearing up to welcome visitors from all over the world for the tournament and the regions’ hosts and in particular, the caterers, are expected to be on full alert as the competition commences.
Similarly further down the M5, Exeter is also getting ready for the start, with teams from Namibia, Georgia, Italy, Tonga, and Romania amongst others making the city their home for the tournament. Sandy Park is home to the recently-promoted Exeter Chiefs who started playing rugby as early as 1873.
Sandy Park is set to be one of the biggest rugby grounds in England, with a current capacity of 10,744, which is set to double in the next two years with a refurbishment planned. In the meantime, the ground is expected to be packed for the upcoming games, and the town is on standby for the hordes of visitors who will descend on this university town.
In fact, Exeter has already announced a Fanzone, located in Northernhay Gardens in Exeter, which offers free entry throughout the tournament, with matches screened live on a big screen, and a variety of events and entertainment for everyone including food stalls.
Venue and team preparation
There will be 13 venues overall hosting the Rugby World Cup 2015 which begins on Friday September 18, 2015 with the opening match at Twickenham through to Saturday October 31, 2015.
England’s Rugby World Cup squad has just been named with a third playing for South West clubs as follows:
• Full-backs: Brown (Harlequins), Goode (Saracens)
• Wings: Nowell (Exeter), May (Gloucester), Watson (Bath)
• Centres: Joseph (Bath), Barritt (Saracens), Slade (Exeter), Burgess (Bath)
• Fly-halves: Ford (Bath), Farrell (Saracens)
• Scrum-halves: B Youngs (Leicester), Care (Harlequins), Wigglesworth (Saracens)
• Hookers: T Youngs (Leicester), Webber (Bath), George (Saracens)
• Props: Marler (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), Cole (Leicester), Wilson (Bath), Brookes (Northampton)
• Second-rows: Lawes (Northampton), Launchbury (Wasps), Parling (Exeter Chiefs), Kruis (Saracens)
• Flankers: Haskell (Wasps), Robshaw (Harlequins), Wood (Northampton)
• No8s: Morgan (Gloucester), B Vunipola (Saracens)
If you are a caterer or own a restaurant or pub that is showing the games, make sure that your team is ready and your kitchen equipment is up and running, in particular the oven. Call AC Services (Southern) for a pre-emptive check on your Rational oven before the games begin!
This initiative has been welcomed by schools, parents and caterers alike, in fact by virtually all those involved in catering for educational establishments.
However, such an initiative brings with it certain problems in implementation: deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was confronted in July by figures obtained by the BBC, which revealed that of the 99 councils who replied to a BBC survey, a third (34) were having to use money from their own budgets.
And the Local Government Association has further warned that 47% of local authorities report not having enough money to ensure their school kitchens are up to scratch.
So there have been comprises being made for instance, the pledge of hot meals has been amended to include cold meals, sandwiches and healthy snacks. And for those establishments who have found funds to refit, refurbish and in build the necessary kitchens, the date of implementation, September 2014, has been extended.
Mr Clegg responded to the negativism by saying: “All I would say to those people who would constantly undermine and cynically seek to denigrate a policy which is as popular as this, as well-researched as this, as well-funded as this, let’s wait . . . because this is a big change and in any big change of the school system we have hundreds and thousands of schools of course there will be some schools who will have some difficulties.”
In addition to introducing new lunchtime procedures schools will have to contend with new food standards from January 1, 2015 as well, new food standards will come in that include:
• The school’s approach to its provision of food
• Food education (including practical cooking).
• The role of the catering team.
• The school’s strategy to increase the take-up of school lunches.
However, the guidelines are still adamant that schools should be working towards providing hot meals and therefore, schools need to work towards that aim.
Effectively, this is a major opportunity for schools to upgrade their catering facilities and operate a successful working business. A world of potential opens up: corporate events, external clients, extra income . . . and whether you are refurbishing or starting from scratch, the most important item in your kitchen will be the oven.
What do you look for in an oven?
• Maintenance support network
Rational ovens, as recommended by AC Services (Southern) have proved their resilience and reliability, as well as their cost efficiency. The manufacturer has a long term relationship AC Services as an approved partner, with numerous maintenance and service packages available to suit any budget, even that of an educational establishment.
The fact is that the implementation of free school meals means that educational establishments must take advantage of the pledge of £150m to improve kitchens and dining facilities and the promise to small schools of £22.5m to extend or improve kitchen facilities. Invest in Rational and reap the benefits!
The Plan is designed to shake up current school meal menus and get pupils interested in school food.
From September, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children in state-funded schools in England will be entitled to free school meals.
But there are a range of issues that will affect the success of this approach.
The rules for what is allowed have been recently changed. From September 2014, the school meal requirements include:
• one or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment every day
• at least three different fruits and three different vegetables each week
• an emphasis on wholegrain foods in place of refined carbohydrates
• an emphasis on making water the drink of choice
• limiting fruit juice portions to quarter pints (150ml)
• restricting the amount of added sugars or honey in other drinks to 5%
• no more than two portions a week of food that has been deep-fried, batter-coated or breadcrumb-coated
• no more than two portions of food that include pastry each week
• a portion of milk (lower fat and lactose reduced) to be made available once a day.
Cater for the Masses
School chefs tend to get put under a lot of pressure to serve food en masse, especially as now menus are changing for the better and different methods of cooking are being used. There’s a big difference between lowering the industrial chip pan into burning oil and ensuring that the pasta is cooked a la dente!
According to the Government, schools have a real opportunity to shine in the catering department. Dietician Ursula Philpot, has revealed that currently, 57% of pupils had packed lunches.
“We have to rebrand school meals and make them something that children want to do. That can only be done by training the chefs, by training the catering staff, by making the school environment – where children eat – better,” she states.
According to reports, over 2,700 schools in England will need to improve kitchens to provide free meals for infant school children under the Plan, and more than 1,700 schools did not even have a kitchen. However, money is being made available to rectify this problem, with the Government announcing that it is providing £150m to improve kitchens and dining facilities.
So what will this money be spent on? Here’s a suggestion, a long lasting, proven reliable oven that is covered by maintenance plans and packages from installers local to the area, who can be relied on to immediately react should any problem arise. Companies like Rational which sells ovens and AC Services (Southern) who installs and maintains them in the South West of England, Southern England and South Wales. http://www.rational-online.com/en/home/index.php
“With these new avenues and extra funding offered to schools, it is essential that they get the best advice possible on renewing their catering facilities,” comments Helen from AC Services. “Many school kitchens have old fashioned appliances that have not been upgraded recently. Now is an ideal opportunity to spend the allocated money on quality appliances, such as Rational.”
With a new, modern kitchen and high quality catering equipment, school catering services can be transformed, with not only the quality of meals going up as a result of more efficient catering equipment, but also the interest of impressionable age pupils in a career within the catering industry. So let’s not underestimate the importance of the school kitchen in education.