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Revised Standards FAQs

Frequently asked questions about the revised school food standards.

General questions
When will the revised school food standards come into force?
Why are revised standards being introduced?
How have the revised standards been developed?
Will the revised standards require schools and caterers to nutritionally analyse their lunch menus?
Will the new standards apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Will schools and caterers be expected to implement the revised food-based standards before January 2015?
What is the purpose of the practical guidance?
Do the School Food Regulations include a requirement for schools to provide a hot meal?
Do the revised standards apply to packed lunches and snacks bought in from home?
Do the revised standards include requirements on portion sizes?
Who do the school food standards apply to?
Will the new standards apply to Academies?

Revised school food standards: food groups
Starchy food
Fruit and vegetables
Meat, fish, eggs, beans and non-dairy sources of protein
Milk and dairy
Foods high in fat, sugar and salt
Healthier Drinks

School Food Standards for Food served outside lunchtime
Do we have to provide fruit and vegetables in all school food outlets such as breakfast clubs, tuckshops etc?
Can we serve homemade cakes and biscuits at mid-morning break and after school clubs? What about malt loaf and fruit bread?
Can we serve desserts at after school clubs?
Can we provide bacon or sausage sandwiches at breakfast clubs?

Monitoring the revised school food standards
Who is responsible for ensuring these standards are met in schools?
How are the standards going to be evaluated and monitored?
Will Ofsted be assessing schools’ adherence to the new standards?

General questions

When will the revised school food standards come into force?
The standards will become statutory from January 2015.

Why are revised standards being introduced?
The current standards (introduced in 2006) have had a positive impact on the food children choose and eat at school. On average school lunches now contain 30% less sugar, salt and saturated fat than before the original standards were introduced.

It was always intended these standards would be reviewed. In July 2013, an independent review (School Food Plan) led by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent gathered feedback from cooks and caterers and found the current school food standards need to be easier to understand and use. They recommended government create a clearer setof food-based standards, accompanied by practical guidance to:

provide caterers with a framework on which to build interesting, creative and nutritionally-balanced menus; and

make it easier and operationally cheaper to implement than the current nutrient-based standards

How have the revised standards been developed?
The revised standards were developed by the School Food Plan Standards Expert Panel and advised by The Children’s Food Trust’s nutrition team led by Dr Patricia Mucavele.

The Children’s Food Trust was also commissioned to pilot test the new standards (available here.) This was done with a diverse range of 35 schools and 24 caterers across the country. The engagement from these participants was very high and the feedback positive.

Some of the key findings were:

  • 9 out of 10 school cooks and caterers told us that they found the new standards ‘easier to understand’ than the current standards.
  • 8 out of 10 school cooks and caterers thought they would provide ‘more flexibility to plan interesting and creative menus that appeal to pupils’.
  • The nutrient content of the average school lunch was as good, and in some cases better, than that observed under the existing standards.

Will the revised standards require schools and caterers to nutritionally analyse their lunch menus?
No. The revised standards are food-based only. Planning menus to meet these food-based standards and following the portion size information included in the practical guide will ensure that lunch provision is balanced and meets children’s nutritional requirements.

Will the new standards apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
No. The new school food standards will only apply to schools in England.

Will schools and caterers be expected to implement the revised food-based standards before January 2015?
No. The Department for Education have published the new school food regulations now to give schools, caterers, suppliers and food manufacturers time to familiarise themselves with the changes and to make any necessary preparations.

What is the purpose of the practical guidance?
The practical guidance has been developed for schools, their cooks and caterers to help them to interpret the regulations and to give them hints and tips as to how they can design exciting and nutritionally balanced menus.

Do the School Food Regulations include a requirement for schools to provide a hot meal?
All food provided in schools must meet the regulations. The standards do not specify that food must be hot, however it is more difficult to meet these standards through providing only cold meals.

Do the revised standards apply to packed lunches and snacks bought in from home?
No. Schools can make their own decisions about packed lunches and snacks. The School Food Plan has examples of how schools have successfully implemented healthy-eating packed lunch policies, working with pupils and parents.

Do the revised standards include requirements on portion sizes?
The revised standards specify how often different types of food and drink can provided. Guidance on typical portion sizes is included in the guidance for schools, cooks and caterers.

Who do the school food standards apply to?
The school food standards apply to:

  • the food and drink provided in local authority maintained primary, secondary, special schools and pupil referral units in England
  • academies (established September 2008 and September 2010) and those signing the new funding agreements from June 2014
  • sixth forms that are part of secondary schools, (even those in a separate building or on a different site), but do not apply to the sixth form colleges or further education colleges
  • maintained nursery schools and nursery units within primary schools
  • after school clubs run on school premises.

The standards do not apply to:

  • private schools
  • food and drink provided after 6pm, or during weekends or school holidays.

As with the current standards, there are exemptions in place for parties or celebrations to mark religious or cultural occasions; fund-raising events; rewards for achievement, good behaviour or effort; food used in teaching food preparation and cookery skills; food provided on an occasional basis by parents or pupils.

Will the new standards apply to Academies?
These school food standards will apply to LA maintained schools, academies that opened prior to 2010 and academies and free schools entering into a funding agreement from June 2014. The authors of the School Food Plan are approaching academies and free schools founded between those dates to sign up voluntarily to the new standards, which they can do at www.schoolfoodplan.com/school-food-standards.

The government encourages all schools to promote healthy eating and provide healthy, tasty and nutritious food and drink. We are confident that schools endeavour to do this whether or not they are required to adhere to the school food standards.

School food standards for food served outside lunchtime

Do we have to provide fruit and vegetables in all school food outlets such as breakfast clubs, tuckshops etc?
Yes – at least one option per outlet. We recommend providing both a fruit and a vegetable option.

Can we serve homemade cakes and biscuits at mid-morning break and after school clubs? What about malt loaf and fruit bread?
Cakes (whether homemade or bought in) can only be served at lunchtime, as they can be high in fat and/or sugar. This includes cookies and flapjacks, scones and pastries such as crossiants. Breadsticks and crackers are classed as savoury biscuits, and should not be provided at times other than lunch.

Malt loaf and other bread type products like bagels, currant and fruit bread, crumpets, tea cakes and English muffins can be served at any time, as these tend to be lower in fat and sugar.

Can we serve desserts at after school clubs?
The only desserts you can serve at an after school club are fruit, yoghurt and fruit-based desserts containing at least 50% fruit. It is good practice to provide yoghurts that are low in sugar.

Can we provide bacon or sausage sandwiches at breakfast clubs?
Sausages are classed as a meat product. Sausage sandwiches can be provided once a week in primary schools, and twice a week in secondary schools, but if provided at breakfast club, couldn’t be provided at any other time in the same week.

Bacon is not a meat product, so provision of bacon is not restricted. However, as bacon is high in salt, we wouldn’t recommend serving it every day. Try reduced sugar baked beans or scrambled eggs as a hot alternative to bacon.

Monitoring the revised school food standards

Who is responsible for ensuring these standards are met in Schools?
Governing bodies are legally responsible for meeting the school food standards

How are the Standards going to be evaluated and monitored?
As one of the actions from the School Food Plan, the Department for Education has committed to assess the nutritional quality of the food available, and plan to use nutritional standards surveys carried out 2004-2006 as a baseline. The impact of the new standards on food provision and children’s food choices and consumption will be assessed once they have had an opportunity to bed down in schools.

Will Ofsted be assessing schools’ adherence to the new standards?
Ofsted school inspections focus on teaching quality, pupils’ achievement, the quality of leadership and pupils’ behaviour and safety. Inspectors are not required to assess a school’s adherence to the school food standards during their routine visits. If however, inspectors become aware of concerns, these can be taken into account as part of the inspection.