Pre-Prep: age 4
Everything is new
What a wonderful age this is. There's so much to explore and discover. We see new pupils coming to school for the first time - so proud, nervous and excited, all at the same time. They have to get used to a completely new routine and learn what's expected of them.
It's only natural that some will worry a bit about the food. Will it taste as good as mum's home cooking? Will they have to eat things that are lumpy or chewy? Our job is to start as we mean to go on - with bright, healthy, delicious food that children look forward to and want to choose. We're careful not to be dictatorial or restricting in any way. We just make sure all the choices are good ones.
Behind the scenes, all our menus and recipes are developed and fully nutritionally analysed to be absolutely right for this specific age group - as they are for
And because it's such an impressionable age, we help to start spreading the healthy lifestyle message. You can't begin too early, can you? We encourage young pupils to try out new foods, and learn about eating through play. Above all at this age, we keep it fun.
was on the line
The bursar's story
Moving away from our existing arrangement was not a decision that I made lightly. After all, catering is one of the school's largest costs after staff salaries.
I wanted to be sure I could safely put our reputation in the hands of a catering company that I could trust.
I knew exactly what I was looking for - a proven track record, value for money, and complete transparency.
I wanted to see open book accounting, with clearly shown charges and earnings. I definitely didn't want any surprises or hidden extras. I expected professional control of costs and inflation.
We've seen a transformation in the quality of our catering since appointing Chartwells Independent.
I'm reassured every day by their reliable, responsible management and their level of commitment.
Their accurate, monthly electronic billing makes cost control very simple.
There's very limited financial risk because they're prepared to guarantee key areas of expenditure within the budget. As part of the contract they've also offered us investment to improve the dining room, open a café and help reinstate a food technology classroom. We've also recently extended their contract to take care of all our housekeeping too - another important service I no longer have to worry about.
I feel very confident now that we can respond quickly and flexibly to deal with any unexpected issue, any change of requirements or even any request to host a big event at short notice.
They get involved
at just the right level
The head teacher's story
It's so important at this young age that our pupils eat good food and learn to enjoy it. It needs to be fresh and wholesome, but not too fussy or complicated.
There needs to be a choice, but not so much as to be overwhelming. We have to serve food that's appropriate for the age group, while at the same time giving encouragement to try new foods. So there's a very careful balance to strike in all of these areas.
I've been delighted with the way that the Chartwells Independent catering staff understand all of these issues. They get involved at just the right level, gently encouraging our pupils to try new things, helping to make sure they have a balanced meal and organising family service.
Another important area is food intolerances. Parents want the reassurance of knowing that we have the expertise to deal with this increasing problem -
and now we do.
A home from home
The parents' story
Children can be quite fussy at this age, can't they? Ours certainly are. So we wanted to be sure that there would always be a good choice and something on the menu that they'd be happy to eat.
It's really nice to know that all the food is freshly cooked and doesn't have any of those nasty additives that you worry about. It's always a bit of a wrench when your children first stay away from home all day, so it's reassuring to know that that they're being well looked after at lunch time.
At home we're always careful about the food we buy. We choose British whenever we can, and look for things that are in season. The fact that it's the same at school makes it feel like a home from home. Just what we wanted, really.
I need lots of
energy to do my dancing practice
The pupil's story
I love dancing. It's my absolute favourite thing. I practise every day so I can be a ballerina. Do you know Angelina Ballerina? When I'm grown up I'm going to be a dancer like Angelina.
I go to ballet lessons twice a week with my best friend Alice. She wants to be a dancer too. We're doing pirouetting and pliéing at the moment. Guess what?
All the parents are coming to our school at the end of term and we'll be performing for them.
I have to have lots of energy to do my dancing practice. The food here is nice and I'm getting better at trying new things. Do you know what a mango is? We had one in our classroom today with some other funny fruit and we ate it.
I thought it was the end of my career
The catering manager's story
When I first heard the idea of an outside catering company coming in and taking over, I assumed that would be the end of my time here. Time to look for
a new job, I thought.
Not a bit of it. What actually happened was that the Chartwells Independent team managed the transition with a care and sensitivity I'd have never expected.
It wasn't going to be easy because people are naturally resistant to change, but they found the time to get to know every individual in the team and very quickly dispelled any fears they had. They handled all the
TUPE and HR issues really well and won our staff over.
I can honestly say now that it's given me - and our entire team - a new lease of life. In a way, it has been like getting a new job. Things are just so much better than before and looking back, I can see that we'd become a bit set in our ways.
I'm part of a network of managers and a support structure now that I can tap into and share ideas with. There are opportunities every day to learn more and develop new skills. There's instant expert help and information for menu planning, nutritional advice, dealing with allergies, recruitment and changes in legislation.
The most important thing however, is that I've got my enthusiasm back. I feel proud again of the job I do, and proud of what I can achieve for the pupils at my school.
The food development & nutritionist's story
It's simple. We always aim for the very highest nutritional quality, from the ingredients we select all the way through to the recipes we develop and the meals we serve. But delivering it takes a lot of hard work. And that's why we're unique in having our own in-house, dedicated team of specialised nutritionists.
All our ingredients are nutritionally approved before they reach our chefs. All our recipes are fully analysed to manage nutritional content and provide all the essential nutrients for the growth and development of children and young people.
The right balance of protein, carbohydrates and calories, for example. Vital micro nutrients such as calcium, vitamins A and C, iron, folate and zinc.
But some of this is a little beyond four year olds! So at this age we keep the emphasis on fun and learning through play. We open young eyes to unusual fruit and veg. We encourage children to discover the gooey joys of mixing flour and water to make bread. We run assemblies and organise healthy eating games
and activities, always fitting in with your school curriculum, of course.
Excellent food and a clean school. They go together well
The housekeeping story
Isn't it reassuring to know that the same company we trust to provide pupils with healthy, nutritious food is also helping to keep their surroundings clean, fresh and hygienic?
Well, that was what we thought when we appointed Chartwells Independent to take care of our housekeeping contract too - and it's proved to be a really good move.
It starts with reception and the head's office - both very important as the first places that parents see when they visit our school. But it extends into all the environments where our pupils live, work and play - including classrooms, boarding houses, corridors, staffrooms, toilets and changing rooms.
We liked the way they took the time to really get to grips with what we needed. They put together a programme that would work around our timetable. The offer was very flexible too - giving us options for continuing to employ the cleaning staff but under their management, and choosing between having the whole school cleaned or leaving the boarding houses to us.
We're impressed by the advanced cleaning equipment they use to make the cleaners' jobs more effective and efficient. And they work to quality levels that are monitored in line with our service level agreements.
You can feel
of Michelin stars
The hospitality manager's story
We know we can rely completely on Chartwells Independent to handle anything we throw at them, from match day meals for visiting schools right up to open days, hired events, lets, conferences and balls.
I think that the match teas are especially important.
We know that other sports teams judge us on the quality and they're a type of shop window for visiting pupils and parents from other schools.
It's just so reassuring to know that there is this great network of professional chefs ready to support whatever we ask of them, with a huge amount of skill in high end hospitality. They reflect our image - perfectly.
You can see how they love to innovate and surprise but you know the consistently high standards are always there too. The training makes sure of that.
We can feel the personal inspiration of world-renowned chefs like Michel Roux Jr and Jason Atherton in many of our other hospitality events as well. We often organise fine dining for fundraising and enterprise activities. When it's all about presenting the school in the best possible light, Michelin star quality inspired food is a pretty good place to start.
Cooking from the heart and serving with passion
The training story
It might start with how to chiffonade an iceberg lettuce. It's how we see the smile on the faces. It might go all the way through to a culinary arts degree. But in the end all our training comes down to one simple thing - inspiring chefs to create wonderful, healthy food that young people love to eat.
Cooking from the heart and serving with passion is vital. So we use the power of the white jacket, but we break down the kitchen walls too. Connecting the kitchen and the counter with knowledgeable, accessible chefs is the real key. It's how we see the smile on the faces. It's how we learn from the feedback.
We pay a lot of attention to how people - young people in particular - take new information on board.
Auditory and kinesthetic techniques help us to encourage pupils to try new tastes, take a balanced meal and eat healthily.
The Michelin starred inspiration of our world-renowned associate chefs - Michel Roux Jr and Jason Atherton - is never far away. Our chefs regularly take part in national competitions and high level work placements to keep them passionate, invigorated and at the top of their professional game. Our training goes wide and deep too, from kitchen assistants to service teams. It includes a lot of e-learning and it covers everything from cleanliness, food hygiene and avoiding cross contamination to allergies, special dietary needs