Lead Association for CAtering in Education (LACA) chair Carrieanne Bishop and workforce development project manager Ruth Asker-Browne launched the Professional Standards in front of around 350 delegates from across the school meals industry at Hilton Birmingham Metropole hotel late last week.
According to LACA more than 80,000 people work in school food, and between them they cater for 4.6 million children a day - making it a larger workforce than the Royal Navy.
LACA have led on the action set out in the School Food Plan to agree, set and publish professional school workforce standards to enhance the sector's standing in the catering industry and provide career opportunities for employees.
Developed with hospitality skills sector body People 1st, the standards focus on what people should be able to actually do rather than looking solely at what qualifications and training should be undertaken.
Professional Standards for five roles were launched at the Main Event - head of kitchen (catering manager/head chef), school cook, assistant cook, general kitchen/catering assistant and midday supervisor.
Bishop said: "LACA are very proud to have led on the development of the Professional Standards for the school workforce as one of the actions of the School Food Plan. We believe they will support schools and catering providers to clearly define the roles within catering teams. In turn we envisage this will raise the profile of the school food workforce amongst the wider catering industry, and as a result staff will feel more valued and respected amongst their peers.
"LACA recognises that there is a raft of exceptional dedicated and skilled staff in schools across the UK, feeding the next generation, and the standards will ensure that they get the recognition they deserve."
Asker-Browne said: "These standards have been developed with the industry for the industry with hundreds of cooks and caterers having their say.
"It's important now for us to ensure these standards are not just put on the shelf and that they are actually used."
She added: "The authors of the School Food plan recognised that the workforce faces a tall order - how to serve our children healthy, tasty meals that can compete on the high street, all on a tight budget and timescales each day."
General secretary of UNISON Dave Prentis said: "UNISON is delighted to support professional standards for the school food workforce. They reflect the broad knowledge and skill-set needed in the delivery of quality food to children and young people. We hope that they will lead to training opportunities, career development and recognition of a job well done."
The full five standards are available on the LACA website here.