Procuring a catering contract for your school
When considering your catering arrangement there are three options:
- The in-house provider - Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Service (CCS)
- Self-management. The school takes over the management of the catering function
- Independent (3rd party provider). Could be a small operation just providing meals for the school through to a nationally based company offering catering services to a range of schools and other establishments.
A school meals contract has a high financial value even if the profit margins are lower than many other contracts. Due to the high value of the contract, school meals should be put out to competitive tender in compliance with Contract Regulations for Schools. Whilst such a contract is exempt from EU Regulations, the tender process should still comply with the principles of those regulations.
Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Services (CCS)
As an established best value for money provider, CCS can be appointed as your meal provider without the need to go through a competitive procurement process.
As there is no contract, this decision can be taken by the governing body as a management rather than a procurement decision. Schools will need to undertake a cost/benefit/risk analysis to determine that this option is feasible and viable. Once the decision has been made, the school will need to develop a business plan to determine how the catering function should be managed and run. However, schools contract regulation will apply when procuring equipment and ingredients. If the school is likely to spend more than £30,000 per annum with a single supplier, serious consideration should be given to putting such a contract through a competitive tender process. ESPO have appropriate contracts on place to supply schools.
This must go out to tender. As it is a complicated specification, it is advisable to employ a suitably experienced consultant to prepare the paperwork and to advise the governing body. The final decision must be made by the governors and not the consultant. The consultant must be made fully aware of schools contract regulations.
If your school is considering outsourcing the catering operataion please consult both the Councils legal and HR teams (contacts to the right).
Choosing a consultant
Schools should seek three competitive quotations from suitably qualified and experienced consultants to ensure that they receive a value for money service.
It is essential that your consultant:
- has suitable experience of working for schools
- can provide references from satisfied schools
- is physically fit and able to see the project through to completion
- is independent from all catering service providers
- has a thorough working knowledge of EU and local government procurement regulations
- has suitable levels of professional indemnity insurance.
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) - TUPE
TUPE refers to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. These regulations were introduced to ensure the protection of employees when, for example, a service or business is taken over by another organisation (they are applicable whether the transfer is from CCS to another supplier, or CCS to the school). Broadly, the TUPE regulations ensure that the rights of the employees are transferred along with the business. Further information in relation to TUPE is available through the links to the right.
The principle factors to be considered if you are thinking of leaving CCS
Health and safety implications
What policies and procedures will the contractor have in place and how do they fit in with the school's health and safety requirements.
Environmental health/hygiene requirements
Staff will need to be trained and hold relevant certificates. The school and the service provider will be responsible for the hygienic operation of the kitchen and complying with environmental health requirements. The school may need to introduce monitoring arrangements to ensure that the kitchen complies with all requirements.
Meals will be required to conform to national nutritional standards determined by the DCSF. Schools will need to ensure that their meals meet these requirements.
Margins in school catering are extremely tight. You will need to be certain that the service provider can produce the meals within budget and on time whilst complying with all the requirements and covering contingencies such as when a meal goes wrong or is rejected by pupils.
If you contract with a supplier, the relationship will require managing to ensure that the contractor delivers what they have said they will do. If the school decides to self-manage the catering function, you will need to put in place managment procedures for catering staff and the catering function. You will be responsible for recruiting, retaining and training staff. You will need to have contingency plans to cover sickness and absenteeism.
The kitchen will need to be suitably equipped to provide the type of meals required. You will need to determine who will be responsible for replacing and updating equipment when necessary. This may be important when setting budgets and costing meals. This will also need to be considered if taking on a third party. If they insist that the school is responsible for all equipment, how will you fund replacements?
Have you undertaken a full cost analysis of your options? Overspends will be the responsibility of the school or the service provider. Who will take and manage dinner money receipts? Who buys ingredients?
What procedures will you have in place should problems arise? Children will need to be fed and it will be your responsibility to ensure that there is something for them to eat.
amended CG 9.10.08
Public sector food procurement initiative
Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Service
ELH 1600, Shire Hall, Cambridge, CB3 0AP
Tel: 01223 717948
Fax: 01223 717190
Christopher Jones - Legal Officer
Tel: 01223 699386
Joyce Fenton - Head of Human Resources
Tel: 01223 717925
Purchasing Advisory Service for Schools (PASS)
RES 1501, Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge, CB3 0AP
Gary James - Schools Purchasing Advisor
Tel: 01223 715347
E-mail: gary.james @cambridgeshire.gov.uk