EB top ten: outstanding school catering

It is widely recognised that healthy school food boosts academic attainment, enhances the wellbeing and behaviour of pupils, and helps tackle the rising obesity levels in school children. Education Business picks its top ten schools that provide outstanding catering


Brynteg Secondary school, Wales

Welsh school Brynteg Secondary scoops the top spot for its collaborative and holistic approach to improving catering, which has seen school meal intake increase by 17 per cent.

To find out why the school was experiencing a decrease in school meal uptake, the catering team worked closely with the school pupil council, food and fitness group, and healthy school co-coordinator. They underwent a customer consultation to find out what the pupils were actually eating and what they would like to see on the menus. Pupils were invited to new product trials to get feedback on whether items were suitable to go onto the menu.

The catering team arranged for menus to be advertised on the school website and had all daily healthy promotions advertised around the school on the TV screens

Fruit smoothies, a fruit bar and a pick and mix salad bar were introduced after the consultation with the pupils.

A pre order system was also introduced to support reduced queuing times.

A 17 per cent increase in school meal uptake was seen as a result of working with the school, the pupils and the lunchtime supervisors. Due to the success of this project work, this approach has been rolled out to the other secondary schools in the borough during 2017.


Hasland Infant and Nursery school, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

Hasland Infant and Nursery school takes the second position for its efforts to improve the children's dining experience. The school upgraded its kitchen and canteen in July 2016 to improve the pupil experience and increase school-meal take-up.

The project, funded with the help of Derbyshire County Council funding, saw a number of actions taken that would change the children’s dining experience. In addition to the Silver Food for Life menu offered to all primary schools across Derbyshire, a deli bar was purchased offering a daily choice of freshly prepared sandwiches and filled rolls. A bespoke self-serve salad bar is also available. To encourage children to scrap plate waste a waste trolley was manufactured with a coloured screen to stop waste food being seen.

The menu is discussed at morning registration and copies of the menu can be found in all of the classrooms and at parent collection points across the school. A bespoke presentation table is positioned at the entrance to the dining room and displays the daily choice.

The project took a total of seven weeks to complete. The completed kitchen has a new ventilation system with state of the art cooking equipment installed to guarantee that high quality food can be served to the children each day. The additional service points in the dining room encourage children to develop life skills and influence choosing the right food.

The children, catering staff and staff are now delighted with their new facility. Following the changes to the kitchen and dining room, take up of meals rose to 87 per cent from 85 per cent in 2015-16.

Hasland Infant and Nursery School


Ark Kings Academy, Birmingham.

Ark Kings Academy believes that if its students eat well, they are better able to learn. To that end, health and nutrition is a priority in the school canteen.

The catering is provided by CityServe, part of Birmingham City Council. Each day the school provides two choices of homemade traditional meals, as well as homemade sandwiches, baguettes, rolls, wraps and bloomers, salad and fruit pots and homemade desserts.

The school has a number of themed days and promotional days throughout the year which gives students the chance to try new foods. The catering team also works with the wider school to link in with the curriculum.

The school operates a cashless payment system, which means that each student has their own account. This helps speed up lunch service and means pupils do not have to carry cash on a daily basis.

This summer, Ark Kings Academy put on a BBQ that proved a huge success with all. There was music, stalls, activities and food from CityKitchen. The BBQ was the school’s largest to date, with 312 parents, 71 staff, Year 7 students and guests attending. The event also allowed student chefs to put their cookery skills into practice.

Ark Kings Academy's BBQ


Richmond Hill Primary School, Leeds

The head teacher Nathan Atkinson believes that children who are eligible for free school meals, should be eligible 52 weeks of the year and not just during term time. So the school built a café in the school, where children can eat, socialise and learn about food, and the school employs members of the community to work in the café, serving the children and their families all year round.

The head teacher has also started a Fuel for Schools programme after seeing vast amounts of entirely edible waste food that are created each day, and also understanding that many poorer pupils depended on their school canteen for healthy cooked food. The scheme started with a ‘market stall’ at the school gates where families could buy ‘waste’ produce through a “pay-as-you-feel honesty box”. It now provides food to 55 schools across Leeds and saves 250 tonnes of food from landfill every month.


Ballard School, Hampshire

Winner of the Education Business Award last year, Ballard School recognises the importance of ensuring that healthy eating is key to the school curriculum. Innovative chefs provide a vast and well prepared menu, with unhealthy foods, such as those that were fried or baked, disappearing from school plates. The school also implemented a ‘Healthy Eating Working Group’, ensuring the topic remains on the agenda. Ballard has also been awarded a Heathy Eating Award for introducing some innovative changes to menus and holds a 5-star hygiene rating.


The Barlow RC High School & Specialist Science College, Manchester

Winners of this year’s catering award at the Education Business magazine, the Barlow RC High RC High school’s catering team undergoes continuous improvement and training, including NVQs in food preparation and cooking. Students particularly enjoy the breakfast service and the new noodle and rice boxes, which are packed with vegetables and come in recyclable containers.

Catering manager Joanne Murray won 'Secondary School Caterer of the Year' at the 2016 EDUcatering Excellence Awards and the catering provision has been recognised by Manchester City Council, with nominations for the award of ‘team of the year’.


Haberdashers Monmouth School for Girls, Monmouthshire

The catering team at Haberdashers Monmouth School, which include fully qualified chefs, work closely with local suppliers to source fresh seasonal food so that a varied and nutritionally balanced menu is always on offer. All dietary requirements are met, including special requests for religious, vegetarian and non-allergenic meals.

The school’s modern facilities include efficient industrial ovens and food preparation equipment, while every kitchen maintains a 5* hygiene rating.

The catering teams regularly present special events, including language days when dishes from Mexico, India, or Italy may be on offer. There is always a choice of more than one hot meal, as well as an extensive cold buffet.

All Monmouth students are invited to send a representative to the Food Forum meetings where they can discuss the schools’ food provision with the catering manager. The school also has a ReFood recycling programme, in which any waste is sent for processing, often to produce green energy and fertiliser.


Harrogate Grammar School

Since bringing catering in house in 2012, the school has expanded its operation to eight outlets within the school including a purpose built Sixth Form G2 Bistro and a mobile catering unit. The school actively engages with students through cookery lessons and has regular contact with parents at induction days and parents’ evenings. Emphasis is placed on local produce, balanced meals and a wide range of healthy choices.

The school has won various accolades for its catering, including a LACA Award for Excellence in 2016 and two awards from the EDUCatering Excellence group.


Malvern St James Girls’ School, Worcestershire

Malvern St James Girls’ School was recently awarded a prestigious Gold Healthier Choices Food Award.

The nutritionally balanced menus at the school cater for all preferences, nationalities and special dietary requirements. All food comes from a small family supplier in Gloucestershire, which sources a lot of its products from the local area.

All meals are produced and cooked on site using and include exotic dishes such as Caribbean chicken and pumpkin curry, Normandy mushroom wellington, sweet chilli beef stir fry and vegetable Cumberland pie. A salad bar, usually themed on Mediterranean or Tapas dishes, is also available each day.

The catering facilities also boast a Level 5 Food Hygiene Rating.


Lowerplace Primary School, Rochdale

The catering team at Lowerplace works hard to produce a varied, exciting and delicious school menu. All meal choices are healthy – the school meal menu includes a choice of two hot meals each day, as well as freshly prepared sandwiches and jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings. During themed meals and special weeks to celebrate festivals and sporting events, the catering team adapts the menu to suit.

The catering team were presented the Excellence Certificate from the Greater Manchester Healthier Catering Award earlier this year and has a Food Hygiene rating of 5.