The school catering industry came together yesterday (3rd May) for the EDUcatering Forum, a one-day conference on leadership and school meals.
Hosted at Haberdashers’ Hall in London, next to the historic Smithfield Market and Bart’s Hospital, delegates heard from a range of speakers who debated the forthcoming election and what it might mean for school meals, holiday hunger, childhood obesity, and the role of Ofsted.
Opening the conference was Jason O’Rourke, head teacher at Washingborough Academy in Lincolnshire, who inspired delegates with his passionate talk about how food education is ingrained in every part of the school day. He is a head that many caterers would dream of having and his ethos was referred to throughout the day by the other speakers.
The day included a passionate plea by Rachel Warwick, founder of MakeLunch, to do more to prevent holiday hunger in children who won’t be receiving a free school meal once the summer holidays begin. She urged caterers to put holiday provision in their contracts when going to tender and to schools for requesting this when looking for a new catering contract.
Chartwells gave a presentation that livened up all of the senses with their cookery demonstration. They used the EDUcatering Forum to premier their new Global Adventures menu, creating three dishes that will soon be rolled out to 300 secondary schools. They also explained how their ‘food super heroes’ are helping to increase interest and meal uptake in primary schools.
A number of speakers referred to the government’s childhood obesity plan and suggested that the proposed Healthy Rating Scheme could finally put the pressure on head teachers to pay attention to the school meals service and get Ofsted to assess schools on the provision of good nutrition.
EDUcatering magazine presented its own independent research at the Forum into how multi-academy trusts (MATs) could be changing the landscape of catering provision in England. Full results will be published in the next issue of the magazine, but the survey revealed that business managers and chief executives of MATs are currently not placing their priorities on the school meal service of the schools they are responsible for. However, the rise of MATs was shown to present many opportunities for caterers to fight for very valuable multi-site contracts.
A full report of the EDUcatering Forum will be published in the next issue of EDUcatering magazine.