Making the new food standards work

I applaud the government’s newly announced Revised Standards for Food in Schools.
There’s obviously been a lot of work gone into developing and testing these, and by and large, 
they’re eminently sensible.

The standards have been devised to make a difference to the health of future generations and to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity. Can they succeed in doing that? Well yes, I think they could, as long as we get a few things right.

Firstly, let’s make sure every caterer adheres to the standards. As I’ve said here many times, there’s really not much point having rules if there’s no machinery in place to enforce them.

Ofsted is the body in charge of inspecting schools, so what better way of integrating food and nutrition education into the curriculum than by making the food standards a part of every school inspection? This would have a dramatic effect in bringing food to the top of every school’s agenda, wouldn’t it?

The other point to be made here lies in the meaning of the word ‘standard’. A standard is a benchmark or level of attainment– something we can all agree on and against which we can measure success. The food standards documents gives us the minimum. It outlines the least that schools should be doing, but I think we also need to be presenting a picture of ‘outstanding’. Just what heights can we reach, operating within all of our restraints?

Dotted around the country are examples of true excellence in school catering. So why not let these places be the beacons, so that we can see what it its possible to achieve? This would move us beyond a ‘pass-fail’ approach to school food inspections and right in line with Ofsted’s ‘satisfactory’, ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ system.

I’d also like to see take-up rates incorporated into the inspections. Students have to be actually eating the food. How much good would we be doing by serving a wide range of great food to only a minority of students?

You can read more of my thoughts on this issue in my piece for TES Online:

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