Discovering the person inside

It's a big change. Instead of being one of the largest, you're suddenly the smallest again. But it's such an exciting time too, as pupils start to find out what they particularly like and make new friends. Growth spurts can come along pretty quickly too.

So the job of our executive chefs and nutritionists is to put the health and wellbeing of your pupils at the heart of what we do - using only the freshest and finest ingredients to create healthy, nutritious, delicious and tempting menus that support growth and development.

But we love to bring food to life too. It's a good age to start getting children involved in understanding ingredients, variety, balance and seasonality. So working closely with you and your curriculum, we excite them with theatre cooking. We show them how to make fresh fruit smoothies. We run interactive healthy eating school assemblies using tasting tables, where our nutritionist and executive chef lead a fifteen minute session on food groups, nutrition and exercise. We organise fitness games, nutritional quizzes and simple cookery lessons too.

And here's an idea that many schools love - teams of pupils competing against the clock (supported by our professional chefs) to create the best-tasting, healthiest dish they can from mystery ingredients - then helping the catering team to serve up the winning dish for lunch.

My reputation
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.

Good food makes
a huge difference

The head teacher's story

It always makes me happy to see pupils tucking in and enjoying their food, but I know that's only the start. I'm convinced that a healthy, nutritious diet makes a huge difference in many important ways.

Teachers tell me all the time that eating well boosts attention and concentration. It makes children better behaved, more engaged and more enthusiastic. It gives them more energy.

It's the exact opposite of being distracted by grabbing a sandwich just before class starts, or feeling permanently hungry and waiting for the next meal.

When pupils are getting the vital nutrients they need to develop, grow and build their immunity systems, they are a lot less likely to fall ill and miss lessons.

I believe that a hot meal is especially important in the cold winter months, but the whole lunchtime experience is a focal point in our school day. We like to make it a real social occasion.

Our child didn't
have to stand out

The parents' story

Children don't always tell you what they've been doing at school, but food is one of the things that ours always talk about! It surprises us sometimes to hear about the new things that they've tried and really liked. They certainly never go hungry.

One complication is that our daughter Sophie has recently developed a food allergy. It's been a worry and still is, so it was hugely reassuring to be able to meet and talk with a Chartwells Independent specialist who is dedicated to special dietary needs. They produced a special menu for her, replacing unsuitable ingredients with safe alternatives. The actual meals don't look that different, so they don't make Sophie stand out or feel embarrassed.

They've even produced a recipe book just for special diets covering gluten free, milk free, egg free and combination intolerances. It's called "Safe Hands." Good name. That's just what it feels like.

You should only practise on the
days you eat

The pupil's story

I've been learning the violin since I was five. I'm practising a piece by JS Bach at the moment. It's really difficult. I can play it for you if you want.

I'm studying the Suzuki method. Do you know it? The Japanese teacher who invented it said you should only practise on the days you eat! That's funny because
I eat every day, like everyone does.

I like it when we have food assemblies. There are different sorts of food on tables that you can try, and people who tell you interesting things about what they are and where they come from. Some of them look and taste a bit funny - but I think it's important to try new things, don't you?

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 anew 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.

Lesson ideas and classroom activities - free online

The food development & nutritionist's story

As a dedicated, in-house team of specialist nutritionists, we insist on promoting healthy choices like freshly made wholemeal bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as varied protein sources including mixed bean salad, eggs, houmous, chickpeas and tofu.

We're committed to the government's Responsibility Deal for reducing salt and sugar, and removing transfats. We don't use any artificial colours connected with hyperactivity in children, or other undesirable additives like aspartame.

And here's a useful online tool to help teachers and teaching assistants with lesson ideas and classroom activities to get across the importance of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle from a young age. It's our new nutrition smart board. It's free.

The sessions we've developed are in line with the healthy eating and physical activity messages covered within the national curriculum, and mindful of the course specifications of specific examination bodies. They also fit in with the competences set out in the European Food Framework.

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 the inspiration 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 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 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 breakdown 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 and sustainability.