Increasing numbers of Academy Schools are bringing school catering back in-house. Globe Academy, part of the Ark group of schools in south London is one such school.
Until recently, the school’s catering had been undertaken by an external caterer but the school was unhappy with arrangements and the quality of meals being supplied in the school.
“At least 45% of our pupils are entitled to free school meals,” explains Mrs Revess, “and for some of these pupils, the school lunchtime break is their only opportunity to sit down at a table and have one hot meal a day.”
So whilst other Ark schools continue to outsource Globe took the decision to bring everything back in-house – a decision that other academies are increasingly embracing believing the cost-plus contracts offered by caterers fail to offer value for money.
“This is a cost that we are looking at much more closely as funding structure becomes flatter,” says Dawn Revess, the school’s operations director.
“We initially outsourced our catering when the school first opened in 2008 because our priority was to raise the academic side of things as fast as we could.”
The last thing the school needed was to become bogged down in the minutiae of school catering, a job best left, many might believe, to the experts.”
Pelican providing impartial advice
But as the school became increasingly unhappy with its existing catering arrangements, Mrs Revess and her team realised they needed some impartial advice. The school enlisted the help of independent school food consultants ISCC, who worked for Ark Schools centrally, and whose first task was to undertake a review of existing arrangements.
“Their view was that we could do better and we began looking at our options to move everything in-house,” says Mrs Revess.
“I have to confess I was not originally thrilled with that decision personally,” admits Mrs Revess. “I was not at all confident that we knew enough about catering to make the right decisions.”
The school had to get everything ready in time for the new term beginning in January. It didn't have the luxury of making the transition over the longer summer holiday period.
“ISCC introduced us to Pelican at the end of the previous autumn term and a series of meetings were set up between the school and Pelican account manager Colin Bousher.”
“Colin took away some of our invoices to do an analysis of them and to see where savings could be made,” she explains, adding that the process confirmed that the school could be purchasing far more efficiently than had been the case previously.
Just one monthly invoice
“One of the big advantages of buying through Pelican was the beauty of having just one monthly invoice, instead of 740 – it made life far less challenging for the school’s finance team,” says Mrs Revess.
There have been other benefits too. The school has been able to influence food choices far more than had previously been the case.
Pupils are heavily involved through the student council: “We know what pupils like to eat and as long as they adhere to Nutritional Standards, which we choose to adhere to, we try and reflect those favourites where feasible,” says Mrs Revess.
Much more control
“The good thing about doing our own catering, is that we can respond immediately to meal plans that don’t work. We now have much more control,” she adds.
“We can now work directly with our catering manager, head teacher and pupils to make any necessary changes or refinements, without the need to involve third parties,” says Mrs Revess.
While Ark schools continue to reflect both internal and outsourced catering arrangements, the group is looking at bringing other functions in house to save money.
“The funding for existing school budgets is flat, which represents a cut in real terms of several percentage points, which is challenging for us all,” says Mrs Revess.
As more schools seek academy status, and funding becomes flatter self-reliance, value for money and the honest advice of impartial experts becomes even more crucial.
If you would like assistance in bringing your catering back in-house, please call Pelican on 01252 705 222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org