School catering to meet the needs of their pupils and community

  • Elaine Pugh - School Business Manager Wren's Nest Primary School

A menu offer that meets the needs of the school

Wren’s Nest is a large school of 500 pupils with provision for children from age 2 to 11 years. Ofsted reported the school to have created an atmosphere where pupils are ‘happy and kept safe’ in an environment where everyone is accepted. The school has a free school meal eligibility of almost 60% and also offers free breakfasts to a fifth of their pupils plus free drinks and snacks to 32 children in Time for Twos, a provision for two year old children.

Bespoke menu offer

When the local authority school catering service gave notice and the school started to look at other providers, Business Manager, Elaine Pugh, knew the school needed a catering provision that would be bespoke to the school allowing them to create an offer that would meet the needs of their pupils and community. Elaine was aware that for many of their pupils the food provided in school was often their main meal and felt that their current menu, and that of contract caterers, was often offering foods that didn’t suit their cohort, which lead to an increasing amount of food waste by pupils. The school wanted to simplify their menu to offer what their children liked to eat whilst still meeting the School Food Standards.

Following an internet search and with recommendations from other schools, Elaine contacted CMC to look at an in-house school catering offer with full management support. The school knew that in-house catering would be best fit for their needs but with school life so busy and so many regulations to follow in catering, they wanted the peace of mind that catering would be managed efficiently and that all regulations would be met.

Initially in January 2023, the school were advised that the current provider would cease trading in March 2024, but with decreasing meal uptake Elaine didn’t want to wait that long and set herself the task of moving to in-house catering by April 2023. One question school’s often ask us is how soon we can mobilise them and get them ready to open in house. For us, we can often do this in a matter of a few weeks but 90 days is usually seen as the standard time to allow for the full TUPE process. After an initial discussion with ourselves, Elaine then lost no time getting the ball rolling and sending the completed CMC TUPE documents to their incumbent provider.

Our appointed Consultant, Tina Batten, took part in early discussion with Elaine and the school and embraced their vision for the school’s catering service. As an experienced consultant for schools with a high percentage of free school meals, and having been a catering manager herself, Tina knew exactly what support the school would need to achieve their target.

The Mobilisation Process

Once the initial budget was set, Tina arranged mobilisation meetings with the school, setting up the new CMC suppliers and initial orders and discussing and designing a site-specific menu that would offer the pupils the food they wanted whilst ensuring quality and value. She also implemented the CMC online system, Tracker, which gives catering managers access to the CMC supplier portfolio and offers ordering , stock takes, budget monitoring and CMC kitchen safety systems. Tina also assessed how the current provision within school was delivered and managed, and offered advice on what seemed like small things, such as how free milk was purchased and served, but things that could improve the school’s budget.

To the delight of Elaine, as hoped for Wren’s Nest Primary launched their new service in April 2023. Tina spent the first few days in school assisting with the service and ensuring that orders were received correctly and that the menu was prepared and delivered to a high standard. Over the next few weeks, all CMC training was carried out for the Catering Team for; allergens, food safety, COSHH, E.coli, and more.

Six months on and the school are extremely pleased with their catering service and the move to in-house school catering with CMC management support. They can now offer a menu that suits the needs of their school and are looking forward to introducing other incentives such as a staff-room specific menu.

I don't think I can sing CMC's praises enough, from only deciding in the February this year to take catering in house from our LA on the 1st April, CMC have been fantastic, they are really supportive, and they have advised us every step of the way.  CMC recognised what we wanted to achieve and have helped us to embed the school meal ethos we wanted for our children.
We have regular updates, meetings, kitchen audits and support in the kitchen, which has meant our kitchen staff feel really valued.  Their on-line systems and food ordering are really simple to use and manage and we have definitely come a long way in such a short time thanks to CMC and especially Tina!
Thank you CMC.

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Wren's Nest Primary