25th January 2017

Some schools in England and Wales are failing children when it comes to food hygiene in school kitchens. Many schools outsource the provision of meals to outside caterers however the food hygiene rating score applies to the school itself, something parents seem unaware of.

The ELAS Group submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Food Standards Agency asking how many schools have received a score of 2 or below on the food hygiene rating scheme, and the results are startling.

2016 – 122 schools rated 2 or below, including three schools which received a zero rating

2015 – 45 schools rated 2 or below

2014 – 1 school rated 2

2013 – 3 schools rated 2 or below

2012 – 3 schools rated 2 or below

2010 – 1 school rated 2

The local authorities with the highest number of failing schools are:

11 schools – Birmingham

7 schools – Lewisham, South Gloucestershire

6 schools – Newham

5 schools – Brent, Enfield, Harrow, Powys

We followed this request up with a FOI request to the three local authorities (Barnet, Hull City and Thanet) which had schools receiving zero ratings to find out the reasons behind the failures. These include:

  • Mouse dropping throughout the kitchen, including on surfaces and equipment that come into contact with food
  • Daily due diligence folder had not been completed for 3 months
  • Poor standards of cleanliness
  • Dirty, broken equipment being used to prepare food
  • Incorrect storage of food – open boxes on floor, raw eggs stored above ready to eat food, cake being cooled on a shelf directly under windows that were covered in peeling paint
  • No food safety management system in place
  • Food found in refrigerators and freezers past their use by dates (this same school was found to have out of date Actimel in the fridge on re-inspection)
  • No stock control system meaning a lot of food items were found to be past their best before dates
  • Incorrect freezer temperatures with food found to be defrosting in the unit; no monitoring of temperatures in fridge/freezer
  • No allergen information on school menu
  • No hot water supply to the kitchen – staff were boiling pans of water for washing up and cleaning
  • No evidence to prove that food had been cooked adequately

Mike Williams, Director of food safety specialists STS, says: “Parents spend a lot of time researching and looking at the best options for schools for their children, yet our research indicates that food hygiene ratings are not among their list of criteria. While schools are required to supply copies of their Ofsted report to all parents of registered pupils and many include the rating on their website and literature, the same cannot be said for their food hygiene ratings. Additionally we have found that Ofsted takes no account of a school’s food hygiene rating when carrying out their inspections. Considering that young children are one of the vulnerable groups and, therefore, particularly susceptible to food borne illness we feel strongly that food hygiene should be higher up the list of priorities for schools and nurseries than it currently appears to be.”

Andrew Bell, Senior Press Officer for Ofsted, said: “With regards to schools, inspectors observe pupils in a wide range of situations outside lessons – these include lunchtime breaks. They do not inspect the quality of the food. However, when considering pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, school inspectors will, in discussion with pupils, check the extent to which pupils are equipped to make informed choices about healthy eating, fitness and mental wellbeing.”


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