Standardising catering and creating a trust-wide catering policy at Ormiston Academy Trust

  • James Miller - National Director of Estates and Technology Ormiston Academy Trust

Policy consistency and standardisation with an expert lead on catering.

In 2014, at the Birmingham Academy Show, James Miller the National Director of Estates and Technology at Ormiston Academy Trust, found himself passing the CMC trade stand. Having missed lunch and seeing CMC Operations Director, Sue Pawley, handing out chocolate brownies, James stopped for a bite. Not one to miss a sales lead, Sue began to ask James about the catering operation at OAT, fully expecting that all their academies would be with one large contract caterer. To Sue’s surprise, James informed her that standardised catering with a trust-wide catering policy was one area that the Trust hadn’t got round to yet and that currently all the schools did their own thing with regards to catering. A few months later, when the Trust decided that it was time to review their catering arrangements, James remembered his chance meeting with Sue and contacted CMC to see how we could help them.

Initially, the Trust asked CMC to assist with auditing the catering services in their academies, as they felt that they had no benchmark of costs of raw materials or costs to pupils for meals. With CMC’s help, the catering audit scope became more than just costs; we also looked at the areas of legal compliance, age and suitability of the kitchens and dining rooms and the standard of the individual services. Each school was benchmarked against the same, set criteria and awarded a score.

CMC felt that the communication to each academy prior to the audit visit had to be handled sensitively as other caterers and catering managers might not be receptive to an external catering consultancy monitoring their service. Each academy was contacted and the objective for the review explained to them:

  • An overview of each catering operation
  • An overarching collaborative review of all the catering operations benchmarked against the same criteria
  • A mechanism to enable good practice and innovation to be shared.

With academies as far north as Grimsby and south to Cowes, the review was carried out over a number of weeks as each audit meant a full day in the individual academy.

The review lead to the Trust developing a trust-wide catering policy, which CMC helped to draft and we continue to update on their behalf. It also highlighted that a number of academies were unhappy with their provision. With a growing portfolio of schools, the Trust decided to create their own framework that their academies could use to to call off catering services as needed. “The reason this has been so popular is because we built in the support from CMC into the whole process. It was a new concept for us at the time; we built into the process that CMC would write the scope, manage the bids, and help the schools select a provider, and then monitor the provider,” says James. “We’ve built up an open and transparent relationship with CMC and feel comfortable involving them in some of the trickier conversations and decision making processes, because we know they’ll be honest with us.”

Having previously had the challenge of several catering providers working to different terms and conditions, the Trusts’ framework ensures that all providers work to standard terms and play by the same rules. At CMC, we see the work that we have advised on and carried out with Ormiston Academy Trust to audit their catering and create a trust-wide catering policy is an exemplar for other multi academy trusts who want to ensure consistency of standards throughout their academies. Having an expert in the education catering industry to call on allows the Trust to have the peace of mind to know that catering is in safe hands.

The relationship of transparency and honesty between OAT and CMC has been of great value to us. The conversations that we involve CMC in at times are ones that you wouldn’t necessarily expect a consultant to be involved in, and for us this is down to the level of trust we have in the advice we receive from CMC.

All client stories
Ormiston academies trust