Friday, 26 July 2013

PKL's 8 Point Plan for Schools

The School Food Plan was recently released, outlining a number of recommendations to improve school food.

Recommendations are centred on improving the take up of school meals, ensuring that children stay on site at lunch times to purchase their lunch, and getting food education back onto the curriculum.

PKL Group is a leading supplier of catering infrastructure solutions and has 25 years of experience in delivering both permanent and temporary kitchens to the education sector. We have worked closely with a number of organisations related to the provision and teaching of food in the education sector including the Children’s Food Trust, LACA and the National Association of School Business Managers.

We have identified a number of issues where schools may require some assistance to help implement changes to their catering and dining operations in line with recommendations made in the School Food Plan. Based on our experience working within the education sector, we have provided advice and information on how these can be overcome.

Issue: Implementing stay on site
Solution: For secondary schools in particular, keeping pupils on site and encouraging better nutritional habits is a key recommendation of the School Food Plan, in order to increase school food take up.

Competing against high street coffee shops and fast food chains can be tough, but one tried and tested solution is installing a modular servery unit in school grounds. This helps ease pressure on the main canteen, reduces queue times, and provides a quicker, easier and more desirable alternative for pupils.

Food can be cooked in the main canteen and then transferred to the servery unit for sale. The unit can also be used to sell alternative food options such as sandwiches, fruit, paninis and cold drinks. PKL Food Cubes are specifically mentioned on page 68 of the School Food Plan and are a proven solution for cutting queue times.

Issue: Pupils are not interested in the school meals on offer
Solution: The introduction of the School Food Plan represents an excellent opportunity to shake up current school meal menus and get pupils interested in school food. Improving the image of school food is a key aim of the School Food Plan, and is vital to its success.

Try getting pupils involved in developing tasty new menu options alongside your cooks.  We have seen this first hand when a school we worked with involved its pupils in helping to design the menu when implementing a new catering option. The results saw greater pupil engagement from the very beginning and helped to significantly improve school meal take up once the new catering outlet was operational.

In addition, you could create a “theatre cooking area” where your cooks can create interest through stir-frying, making fajitas, and creating delicious food in front of your pupils. 

Issue: No school kitchen on site / current kitchen is not fit for purpose
Solution: If you don’t currently have a school kitchen, or if the current one is not fit for purpose, you may need to have a new school kitchen built to enable fresh hot food to be produced on site. In these circumstances, you have two main options. These include undertaking building work with traditional on-site construction, or the installation of a permanent modular kitchen building.

The traditional construction option is likely to cause unwanted disruption on site, and could take a significant amount of time and money. The alternative option would be a modular building, built to order off-site and then delivered and installed at your school within a matter of hours, reducing disruption on site and often costing less than traditional construction methods, without compromising on quality. Modular buildings such as PKL KitchenPods are recommended by the Department of Education which outlines various baseline designs for new schools, as well as by Galliford Try’s report “The Optimum Primary School”. This option is also ideal for schools who wish to convert their existing school kitchen into valuable additional teaching space, and locate a new kitchen elsewhere on site. 

Issue: Catering equipment in the school kitchen is not fit for purpose
The School Food Plan recommends the introduction of breakfast clubs as well as increasing school meal numbers, so schools’ catering equipment will come under greater use than ever before. Many school kitchens are operating with out of date, unreliable catering equipment that is often not properly maintained, and is unlikely to cope well with increased use. Capital investment in new equipment is often not financially possible, or desirable, for schools, so contract rental of the complete catering equipment estate can be an ideal solution.

PKL has a dedicated product for the education sector called KitchenFM for Schools, which allows schools to pay a fixed monthly fee in return for the rental, service and maintenance of all catering equipment. We’ll even buy existing items owned by the school and include them in the package. This contract rental means that schools have known, fixed costs, and should catering equipment break down, it will be fixed or replaced as part of the inclusive service. This gives schools peace of mind and ensures that the catering provision will not suffer in the event of equipment failure, as under KitchenFM for Schools, PKL invest in the upkeep of catering equipment, not the school.

Issue: Not enough dining space / unappealing dining environment
One of the key outcomes of the School Food Plan is that Ofsted will consider behaviour and culture in the dining hall as one of the areas of assessment. If you have a pleasant dining environment, pupils will want to eat there, and this will be reflected in behaviour.

If your dining hall is overcrowded and tired, or if it doubles up as a sports hall or teaching space, consider adding a purpose-built, improved dining hall. Modular construction is ideal for this as it is quick and can be inexpensive compared to traditional construction, can create a standalone building or extend an existing one, and offers a high quality dining environment.

Having teachers eat their school food alongside pupils has also been shown to improve table manners and make school meals more attractive, especially among primary schools.  Additionally, try viewing the dining hall through the eyes of your pupils to see how your current facility looks and operates, to get a better idea of how you can make improvements to it.

Issue: Lack of Food Technology teaching kitchens
With the teaching of cooking becoming compulsory for all pupils up to the age of 14 from September 2014 onwards, now is the time for schools to ensure they will have enough food teaching space available. A holistic approach to food education is ideal for engaging pupils with food, and this change in the curriculum offers an excellent opportunity for pupils to grow their own vegetables and herbs and learn to cook with them to create delicious meals. This will help foster an interest in fresh, nutritious food and impact positively on school meal take up too.

Food technology kitchens which incorporate facilities to enable pupils to grow their own veg are ideal solutions which provide a flexible, high quality learning environment. These facilities could also be used for after school cooking lessons for parents, pupils and community members, strengthening ties with the local community and spreading the healthy eating message.

For primary schools, the Jamie Oliver Kitchen Garden Project provides an excellent resource if you require help or advice with getting food education back on the curriculum.

Issue: Lack of funding
Finding out what funding is available, and accessing it can be a daunting task. Luckily, there is a large amount of funding available for school kitchen and dining facilities, both from the government and other organisations. For anyone considering PKL school solutions, we can offer advice on suitable funding streams and even assist with funding applications if required. In addition, we offer a range of flexible procurement options to schools for new kitchens, kitchen estate management and for new kiosk buildings, including lease hire, contract rental and capital purchase.

Issue: Lack of cooking skills / confidence of school cooks
The School Food Plan aims to improve the skills of the catering workforce, as well as bringing school cooks closer to the rest of the catering sector. Revised food based standards will be introduced into schools, and food and nutrition will be included in head teacher training. Most school cooks are great at what they do, however some may lack confidence in implementing a new range of school meals, or may need to update their cooking skills to tackle new menu options.

There are many organisations that can help with skills development and support, and the Children’s Food Trust or the Food For Life Partnership are great places to start. They can offer a huge range of advice and assistance to both school catering staff and head teachers to help schools improve their food offering.

Further Information
If you are planning any changes to your school meal provision in light of the recommendations made in the School Food Plan and would like some more information regarding the options that are available to you in terms of catering infrastructure, please do get in contact with PKL.

We are vastly experienced in the supply of permanent kitchens, food kiosks, catering equipment and teaching kitchens to the education sector and can provide you with expert help and assistance, whatever your project.

For more information, contact PKL on 0845 840 4242, email or visit us on the web at

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