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LACA-FCSI prize winning Wavell School opens revamped facilities

LACA FCSI Wavell School cafe
27 Sep 2017
The winner of a LACA-FCSI prize of a school catering makeover, Wavell School in Farnborough, Hampshire, has opened its doors in the new academic year to its revamped facilities.

The opening of Wavell School’s café and Year 7 dining hall marked the completion of a project that began a year ago as part of a joint initiative between LACA (Lead Association for Catering Excellence) and FCSI (Foodservice Consultants Society International).

The aim was to show how significant changes could be made to school dining facilities, even on a limited budget.

Wavell School was one of a number of schools that applied to take part and was selected by LACA and FCSI – the project to take a multi-use sports hall and create a welcoming dining environment for the school’s Year 7 intake.

Julian Edwards, chair of FCSI UK & Ireland, said: “We’ve gone from talking to the students about it, to having plans down on paper to now seeing it brought to life and it’s a dream come true.

“It just shows that with a flexible approach from an enthusiastic catering team and a supportive head and governors you can turn any space into something quite special.”

Helen Blundell, the school bursar, said the idea was to provide a bright, cheerful dining area just for the 200 Year 7 pupils as part of the school’s initiative to ease them into secondary school life.

“It can be a bit scary coming here from primary school, especially as some of our feeder schools are quite small, village schools.

“This way we take away some of the shock and let them find their own way in at their own pace. They can feel comfortable with children their own age in their own area during the very important lunch break.

“We’ve only been open a week, but already we’ve seen a very encouraging rise in take up and sales compared to last year.

“Year 7 is a very important year, because if we can get them as school lunch regulars at this age we have a good chance of helping to keep them through their school life.

“That means we know they will have a good quality, nutritious and tasty meal with all the benefits that brings in terms of concentration, behaviour and achievement.

“Not only that, but there are all the social skills they learn as part of the communal dining experience.”

Tim Blowers, chair of LACA, said: “I’ve seen the pictures of what the place looked like before and now to see it today it shows what can be done.

“There’s nice clear, bright signage and the school has done just the right thing by getting the pupils involved because if you don’t have buy-in from them then it won’t work.”

The school organised a competition to design a new logo for the Wavell Café, and on the launch day for the project winners Devika Ashok and Jordan Brunt were invited to cut the ribbon to open the new facility.

Wavell has 1,000 students, but was built in the 1970s for only 500, so congestion and queueing have become problems at lunchtime.

The servery in the main school hall is only 7m wide and a survey quickly revealed that more service points were needed. The remote site, dedicated to Year 7, was a bare sports hall with grey walls.

Edwards said: “It needed more equipment to help prepare more fresh food. And although it is a multi-use space, the school was happy to have it brightened up to make it more like a food hall.

“We were looking at ambience, furniture, facilities and to increase the speed of service because only 41% of free school meals students actually took their meal - probably the result of the big queues.”

The Wavell student council was involved in the discussions from the start and the project effectively began with a survey of pupils to identify the problems and ideas to tackle them.