Friday, 11 July 2014

Expansion of school meals provision creates new jobs

North Ayrshire Council’s ruling SNP Cabinet is this week expected to announce plans for the increased provision of school meals.

The move comes after the SNP Scottish Government introduced free school meals for every pupil in the first three years of primary school (P1-P3). With the local Council also embarking on an initiative to encourage more secondary pupils to have their lunchtime meal in school, it is anticipated overall demand could increase by 2,000 meals per day. To meet the additional demand, the SNP-run Council plans to increase from 25 to 30 the number of kitchens cooking school meals in the district, which would require the recruitment of an additional 36 new members of staff (22 full-time-equivalent positions) by January 2015.

Currently, local schools have a range of groups linking to health and well-being and are being asked to include discussions on measures to increase the uptake of school meals, and to consider existing meal choices on their healthy schools agenda. Each Secondary school has carried out a pupil survey on school meals during May and June for pupils in years 1-3. The outcomes of the survey will be analysed by Council officials and will form the basis of developing the next phase of marketing and planning of initiatives for 2014/15.

Over the past academic year, the uptake of school meals in North Ayrshire was 46.7%, exceeding the local authority target of 44%. School meals staff have also received a number of external awards for their work.

Cooking facilities at Hayocks Primary in Stevenston and Caledonia Primary in Saltcoats are expected to be upgraded to ‘hub kitchen’ status as part of the initiative to be announced this week, meaning they will take on the roll of preparing meals for other schools in addition to serving their own pupils.

The total cost to North Ayrshire Council of providing additional meals, recruiting extra staff and upgrading kitchen facilities is expected to come in at around £290,000, some of which will be met from funding provided by the SNP Scottish Government.

In related news, Council catering staff at the Tournament Cafe in Kilwinning’s Eglinton Park last week picked up a prestigious prize at the UK-wide Local Authority Catering Association Awards. The local workers took the Specialist Catering Team award and were amongst the finalists in the Catering Business of the Year Award.

Ardrossan councillor Tony Gurney, North Ayrshire’s SNP Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, praised all catering staff employed by the local authority, saying the latest award is “a reminder of just how wide the team's remit is - from our award-winning school catering team's nutritious, healthy menus to ensuring visitors to Eglinton Park can enjoy the highest quality of food”.

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