Cooks quit over school meals revamp

HEALTHY eating initiatives in Suffolk schools are failing as under-pressure staff are expected to work harder with no extra pay, angry governors have claimed.

HEALTHY eating initiatives in Suffolk schools are failing as under-pressure staff are expected to work harder with no extra pay, angry governors have claimed.

The governors, from Boxford Primary School, near Sudbury, spoke out after their only two kitchen staff resigned because of the increased burden of preparing healthier food.

They said they welcomed the Jamie Oliver-inspired move across the country to improve school dinners but said education bosses had not properly introduced the changes and the end results were not proving popular with pupils, who were abandoning school canteens.

Their concerns have been backed up by union officials - who are demanding investment goes hand-in-hand with the new initiative.

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Boxford Primary School lost its two cooks after they were lumbered with extra hygiene and preparation work without extra pay and even found themselves washing tea towels at home, governor Judith Blatch revealed.

In a letter to the EADT on behalf of the school governors, Mrs Blatch said: “We need more funding.

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“For several years they've served fast food, which takes less time to prepare, but now they are serving freshly prepared food, which takes longer to prepare.

“They (the staff) are being asked to do more without extra recognition.

“The governing body is dismayed to learn that our only two kitchen staff have resigned.

“Three years ago, Suffolk County Council imposed convenience foods on the school kitchen. This resulted in the loss of one member of staff, as there was less preparation of fresh food.”

The governors said welcomed the move to healthy food initiated by television chef Oliver's campaign but claimed there was no corresponding acknowledgment by the county council of the increased demands made on staff.

Mrs Blatch continued: “As a parent, we want the children to eat more healthily and the standards at Boxford are extremely high and we are losing that experience. Valuable, experienced staff are leaving because they feel undervalued.

“We urge everyone involved to look at this issue and resolve it before all our children are forced to eat sandwiches at lunchtime and the laudable aims of healthy, nutritious food fall by the wayside.”

Officials at the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G), which represents school catering staff across the UK, said they were alarmed by news that schools were losing kitchen staff due to the time needed to prepare fresh food.

“We want to see a nutritionally healthy diet for children and to make school meals an attractive option,” said Peter Allenson, T&G national secretary for public services.

“But Government, local authorities and schools must make sure that the amount per meal also takes into account the provision of decently-equipped kitchens to ensure fresh food can be prepared and properly trained kitchen staff who can take advantage of ongoing training.

“Too often in the past privatising school meals has meant cutting costs, cutting nutrition standards and cutting staff. If schools are losing staff because of preparing fresh food that concerns us and should be addressed.”

Boxford Primary headteacher Robert Giles said: “As a school we are sad at the loss of two of our kitchen staff.

“However we fully support the new school menus and we will work with Suffolk County Catering to sort teething problems.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We have spoken with the headteacher and we will meet with the governors to discuss their concerns about catering at the school.

“The system is not rigid and does reflect extra hours spent preparing fresh food.”

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