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Hessle High School

WEEK 19 - Friday 4 February 2022

I have spent a disproportionate amount of time this week talking about food.

After two weeks of non-stop Covid discussions, the fall in the number of cases that we have seen this week has not only been a great relief but has also given us a chance to look ahead at one of our other priorities; namely school food.

Since the start of the pandemic almost two years ago (two years!!!), there have been countless changes to the catering offered by our team. But, before going further, I should explain how our school catering works.

As educationalists, our expertise lies in the care of children both pastoral and academic and so we have little experience or knowledge of mass catering. Therefore, like the vast majority of schools, we outsource our catering to specialist catering firms, of which there are many in the UK that specialise in school meals. This arrangement enables us to focus on what we do best and allow the experts to ensure that hundreds of children are offered a range of food every day that complies with Government standards on nutrition, that is affordable and can also be served quickly enough to feed over a thousand hungry young people in forty-five minutes (twenty minutes at break!). This is a challenge in itself but this has been compounded by Covid that has forced them to contend with year group bubbles, social distancing, restrictions on the use of crockery and cutlery and, on top of this, significant staffing shortages which are a problem right across the hospitality sector. Despite these challenges and, whilst they may not have always been able to offer the full range of choice, the team have never missed a service in that period of time. But we know they can, and want to, do better and, this week, we have been looking into ways in which we can improve the lunch and break experience for students.

Firstly, after half term, we will be reopening the outdoor snack shack which provides a grab’n’go option which reduces queueing time and allows students to spend more time outdoors, exercising and socialising. The snack shack will also shortly open before school, for a trial period, when a breakfast menu will be available for students before they come into the school building.

Secondly, we will revert after half term to the normal lunch duration, of 45 minutes (50 minutes for Cohort B). This was changed, you will remember, in October for the comfort of students during the cold weather. Hopefully, it won’t be long after half term that the field will reopen and students can again enjoy the full school site at break and lunchtime.  

Our contract caterers, ABM, will also be introducing a new till system which will further speed up service. This will require a new biometric image to be taken for all students and we will require your consent to do this which you can provide for us here.  The new system will also provide students with an automatic daily allowance of £6 per day. ABM have not increased any prices, this change comes after many requests from parents to increase individual limits, but if you would like to decrease (or increase) this daily limit for your child, please contact us on clearly stating your child’s name, tutor group and preferred daily limit. Parents can also stipulate that your child only utilises their daily allowance at lunchtime if you feel that helps to ensure they eat at the right times of the day. It is worth noting that students on Free School Meals may choose to spend their allowance at any time unless you make a specific request for it to be lunchtime only.

We continue to ensure that all students are able to access lunch and, if a child does not have enough money on their account, they may obtain a temporary overdraft by going to the School Reception.  Please be aware that, once an account goes overdrawn, it will need to be topped up before it can be used again.  To help with this, it is possible to set up low balance alerts on ParentPay.

Finally, I mentioned at the start of this blog that we have seen a drop in the number of positive cases reported to us and this has indeed been a significant decrease. Nevertheless, we will continue to require students and staff to wear face coverings until further notice whilst we continue to assess the impact of these measures. We also ask that you provide your child with daily tests to identify asymptomatic cases and to exercise caution in terms of groups of students mixing in homes and out of school.  

I always feel like I have hibernated during January and it is only in early February that the Groak family begin to use weekends for anything other than rest and recuperation. This weekend, my wife and son will be heading over the Pennines to watch Manchester City v Fulham, whilst I will spend the day with our seven year old daughter. She has it all planned out - after her drama class, we will be watching Sing 2 at the cinema followed by Ice Skating (I think I’ll watch!) then tea at Papas, followed by our fifteenth viewing of Encanto! I had better make sure I get my marking done tonight so I can enjoy it fully!

Whatever you are doing this weekend, stay safe and enjoy it.

Mr Groak