Cambridgeshire County Council’s school meal service is due to close in the October half term and the council’s Commercial and Investment Committee is reported to be helping schools find alternative provision.
It was announced in February that the Catering and Cleaning Service (CCS) would close, citing reasons of increasing competition for contracts from outside caterers. Schools that had yet to confirm their plans to CCS were given six months’ notice in April.
According to the council, the CCS has been working closely with schools since the announcement was made, providing them with the information they require to undertake the tender process and helping them to identify an alternative provider. This has included a range of workshops, telephone calls and one-to-one support for schools with procurement or other concerns.
“We remain committed to supporting schools to fulfil their duty to provide balanced and healthy school meals and will help them to secure high quality, healthy and cost-effective catering,” said Councillor Josh Schumann. “All suppliers in the market follow the government’s Food Standard Guidance. When we discussed this initially concerns were raised that a number of small rural schools would struggle to attract private catering providers, however this has not proved to be the case.
“Schools are finding that clustering together helps to achieve greater buying power and economies of scale. For example, three small rural primary schools – Castle Camps, Burrough Green and Great Abington – have clustered with the large infant school in Linton. The schools are up to 13 miles apart demonstrating that schools do not need to be geographically close to form a cluster. Along with clustering, small schools are also managing to find an alternative provider independently. Many schools are choosing to take the cleaning provision in-house, as it’s a more straightforward and logical move for schools.”
Some schools have already ended their contract with CCS after finding a contract caterer to begin from September.
Guy Underwood, headteacher at Great Abington Primary School said: “We have worked together as a cluster of schools and developed a procurement approach that considered quality and nutrition as well as price. The support package put in place by CCS enabled questions to be quickly resolved and helped staff to understand the process. Governors with a legal and food industry background supported both before and after the selection of the new caterer. The process concluded very successfully and we are now ready for September with an ambitious and exciting new food offer for our pupils.”
The majority of CCS staff based in schools will transfer to the new providers, while non-site-based staff who will be at risk of redundancy are being supported in a variety of ways including help with CV writing and interview skills assistance, the council said.
CCS also manages the Shire Hall servery and Central Library Café, both of which will close at the end of August.