It never happens on Masterchef, does it? You never see John and Greg putting aspiring super-chefs to work in kitchens that are, frankly, too small for the job at hand. You don’t see them having to break off from chopping to negotiate with an oven which seems to choose when it will light first time based on the cycles of the moon. They might get a special challenge here and there, to cook in a tent in the middle of a field with a (very) temporary kitchen, but does that really compare to the day-to-day challenge of working in facilities which, for all sorts of reasons, aren’t really up to the job?
It’s an issue for many schools: kitchens (or equipment) which are knocking on a bit, meaning that some tasks take far longer than they need to, eating into your time to get creative. Kitchens which are too small, or poorly laid-out – meaning you’ve become an expert at constantly moving out of the way of passing colleagues while you prep, or you walk unnecessary miles each week.
And as ever, it all comes back to take up. Kitchen facilities which aren’t allowing you to make the most of your skills, which aren’t giving you the efficiency you need, aren’t going to help your school’s chances of boosting take up.
Of course, kitchens aren’t the be all and end all. It’s skilled people who make great school food happen (with that essential backing of a headteacher who really values food and its place in school life). But if your team doesn’t have the tools it needs; if you don’t have the kitchen that enables you to work your magic and, crucially, to keep growing your take up, how much more challenging does that School Food Plan vision of 80% take up feel?
We hear about kitchen facilities issues a lot from schools all over the country. That’s why, this year, we’re rating the state of the nation’s school kitchens. Backed by Myles Bremner from the School Food Plan and the National Association of School Business Management, we’re asking all schools to join the first national survey of school kitchens so that we can see just how many of you are facing these sorts of problems.
Do you think your school’s kitchen facilities will limit how much you can increase take up in the coming years? Are you trying to raise money to improve or replace your kitchen? Take our survey and help us get the first national picture of the nation’s kitchen facilities. You can also join the debate in our Learning Network forums and follow the campaign using #schoolkitchens on Twitter.
There is help out there, by the way – from low-cost tactics that will buy you time and a bit more space, to clever products which allow you to replace your kitchen without having to raise huge amounts of capital up front and inspiration on working with your local community to generate funds. Get in touch with us if you need help.
But the point here is this: you’re definitely not alone. This year, we want to find out just how many of you are soldiering on in kitchens that need a bit of tlc to help make the School Food Plan’s goals a reality.
Jeremy heads up our school support team. His blog was first published in Educatering magazine, October 2013.