The local authority caterer’s association conference (laca) was a chance to reflect on how much change has taken place in school meals over the past few years.
A video link to Jamie Oliver allowed the audience to hear his views on how much progress has been made on embedding nutritional standards into everyday school life and some of the threats that may exist to what has been achieved to date.
He highlighted that Britain is the unhealthiest country in Europe and that levels of childhood obesity are scandalously high, with 1 in 4 kids going to primary school already obese and this figure rising to 1 in 3 by the time they go onto secondary education. With 3m kids eating school lunch daily this is a great opportunity for society to intervene at an early age to improve public health and educational attainment. It’s the ultimate invest to save scheme as it costs so much more to deal with the problems of ill health in later life than it does to address these issues in early life. Of course this requires joined up thinking at central government level between the Education and Health Ministers.
As well as strategic policy matters Jamie gave advice on more operational issues like improving school meal uptake. His view was that those involved in the delivery of school meals should be trying every trick in the book to communicate with parents and attempting to build partnerships with Head teachers.
Jamie expressed concerns around the exclusion of free schools and academies from compliance with nutritional standards and Michael Gove’s recent announcement of a new review into school meals. His view was that we already know what the issues are and are making progress on resolving them so why waste time with another review.
Toby Young gave a talk on how he has established the West London free school, whilst he was an interesting speaker his story left me wondering how fair and equitable a fragmented system would be if replicated on a large scale across the country.