A new free training course has been launched to help school caterers improve their craft skills and meet this September's new nutritional guidelines.
The scheme, an adaptation of the Government-funded Support Workers in Schools programme, hopes to overcome barriers of time and cost that have deterred caterers from investing in training in the past.
Tony Holyland, head of vocational learning at hospitality Sector Skills Council People 1st, which helped put the new 120-hour package together, said: "It will be sensitive to the needs of the school environment and part-time staff. And because it's funded there should be no cost to the employee."
Formally launching the course at Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) conference in Birmingham last week, Holyland said training will take place on site and catering managers will play a formal part in the assessment process.
Eden Foodservice managing director Simon James welcomed the move. He said that Jamie Oliver had given a false impression that school caterers were capable only of opening a box and shoving food into an oven. However, he conceded there was a need to "raise some of the craft skills in the industry".
A Level Three scheme for site managers will launch in September and will cover menu development, food safety and budgeting.
Longer term, People 1st wants to develop an NVQ for school caterers in partnership with LACA and the School Food Trust.
By Tom Bill