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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
School dinner courses 'to be cut'
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Ministers had said the new course would recognise the skills needed
A course set up to train catering staff as part of a drive to improve school meal standards is under threat because of college funding cuts in England.

A one-day course developed after Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve school meals will not be funded under new government priorities.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly announced in the summer there would be new training for school kitchen staff.

But ministers now say such short courses are of "limited value".

'Limited benefits'

In June, Ms Kelly called school dinner staff "unsung heroes" and announced a new initiative to train 15,000 school dinner staff.

The new City and Guilds Level 1 Award in "providing a healthier school meals service" was announced in August.

The day-long practical course would involve six taught hours, according to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

However, as part of new funding arrangements for further education announced last week, the government questioned the value of courses shorter than nine hours in length.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funding document, Priorities for Success, says very short courses "appear to have limited benefits in terms of progression for learners".

"The LSC will therefore cease funding very short learning aims below nine hours."

More government money will be directed instead towards teaching adults basic literacy and numeracy skills.

And the contribution adult learners make to their courses will rise.

'Unintended consequences'

The City and Guilds course teaches basic requirements of a balanced diet, and how to prepare fresh food.

TV chef Jamie Oliver filmed school dinner staff in Greenwich as part of his series Jamie's School Dinners, which raised concerns about school meal standards.

Lewisham College trains Jamie Oliver's apprentices at his Fifteen restaurant, and already trains school dinner staff in Greenwich, where the series Jamie's School Dinners was filmed.

The college said it had been finalising the content of the course, and wanted to offer it in the near future.

But Nick Linford, head of planning, funding and projects, said it wondered whether it would be worthwhile to deliver the course if funding were withdrawn from next year.

Jamie Oliver
TV chef Jamie Oliver delivered a petition to Downing Street

"I wonder whether the government's priorities have been thought through," he said.

"Perhaps there will be some exceptions to the new priorities, and I hope the course will be saved, but the government position is clear.

"We very much support the government's agenda on vocationalism, but there could be unintended consequences of these funding changes."

He said schools would be obliged to pay for the course.


An eight-hour course in meat and poultry hygiene, which covers issues such as cross-contamination, could also be jeopardised.

The Meat Training Council, which devised the course, said it might create a two-day course in order to secure funding, but said fewer employers would release staff on that basis.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said the government was giving schools 220m to train school kitchen staff and improve meals.

"The recently announced changes to the planning and funding of further education will allow thousands more young people and adults to gain qualifications and skills for young people."

The spokesperson said investment in further education was up 48% since 1997, but ministers thought employers, the "key beneficiaries" of adult training, should contribute more to its costs.

Adult education costs to rise
21 Oct 05 |  Education

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