LinkedIn debate: Is there any point having school meal guidelines?

LinkedIn debate: Is there any point having school meal guidelines?

A lively debate on school meals has kicked off on LinkedIn following the report by Caterer on MP Sarah Teather's letter to the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA).

In response to LACA chairman Sandra Russell's concerns, Teather said the Government has no intention of introducing nutritional standards in academies and free schools. The minister of state for children and families also offered little reassurance that the guidelines would be enforced by regular inspection.

Members of the LinkedIn group "We Work in the School Meals Industry" shared their views on the matter. Please note, they have been edited for print purposes.

Janie Stamford, contract catering editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper What's the point of a rule if no one is prepared to enforce it? If inspections are already successfully happening in Scotland, there's not a lot stopping the rest of the UK is there?

Lindsay Graham, director, LGL Nothing stopping the rest of the UK following Scotland's example. It would be money well spent and would help the Government with monitoring success.

Phil Brown, catering manager, TNS Catering The school I work at has had an Ofsted inspection this school year. The lead inspector did ask a few questions about the catering provision; he also spent time observing pupils during break and lunchtime in the dining area.

Andrew Etherington, managing director, Andrew Etherington Associates No one in England has ever been seriously taken to task for failure to meet the school food guidelines. The quality and standard of catering rarely elicits little more than one or two lines within a standard Ofsted report. This is hardly the outcome of a seriously tested meals service.

Peter Hindley, marketing and business support, Evoid Drinks If students pick and choose - as most seem to - then the concept of balance can disappear. Educating everything in moderation would seem to be a better approach.

Janie Stamford Phil, that's encouraging but do you think it's enough? It doesn't delve into whether standards are actually being met.

Phil Brown Food inspectors turning up at schools unannounced would be good. I don't think there is any chance in Northamptonshire as the county council is short of money.

Alister Morgan, project director, Tricon Foodservice Consultants I've been auditing school catering operations as a consultant for the last 10 years and the number of times that the food standards have been reviewed has been minimal. With potential further cutbacks, improvements to the monitoring of standards are unlikely and, if anything, I think it will get worse.

Andrew Etherington The vast majority of our secondary schools can't and won't deliver a strictly compliant food and beverage offer but I don't think our school meals culture will now allow a return to the worst excesses of "pre-Jamie" days.

Phil Brown But surely those people working in school meals take pride in their jobs and endeavour to be as compliant as possible? If not they should not be working in schools.

Scott Brown, business development executive Surely excluding new academies from the legislation on the basis you have no reason to believe they won't do a good job creates an unlevel playing field that can't be sustained?

Lindsay Graham Scott, that's why central government should really be made accountable for spend on school meals to date. The big faux pas made was not setting in place a proper government mechanism for monitoring the effect of the massive investment into improving food provision for our children and young people. All schools must be inspected. That's what gives the level playing field.

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