09 Aug

Choosing a consultant

“Choosing a consultant or procurement organisation to sort out catering is difficult because they all seem the same”

This is about as accurate as saying all multi-academy trusts and children are the same!

MATs come together for many reasons including educational improvement, sharing best practice and financial efficiency. Becoming a MAT is a journey towards improving pupil outcomes rather than a solution or destination in itself. As a trust develops and potentially expands, there will be many different challenges along the way including sustaining the individual identity of member academies and ensuring good quality service delivery while driving efficiency.

Consultant or procurement organisation/framework?

Buying stationary, computers or photocopiers on behalf of a Trust does need some specialist knowledge and a compliant process -something that procurement organisations are able to do on behalf of schools and MATs alike. Catering however, is a more visible and complex service which can make a real difference to children but, if not procured properly, can be an expensive distraction to the school day.

Every MAT is different and an ‘off the shelf’ process will only produce an ‘off the shelf’ solution rather than a dynamic, developing service a Trust can be proud of.

Matriculate Consulting’s affordable approach is to manage bespoke compliant tender processes having gained a sound appreciation of how each MAT works, the culture of each member academy and the ongoing support you may need, post tender.

All MATs and consultants are equal but some are more equal than others…….

05 Apr

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”

(or “free” frameworks or “free” buying organisations/clubs)

A “free lunch” is believed to refer to the nineteenth-century practice in American bars of offering a “free lunch” to entice drinking customers. The more unhealthy, salty and fatty food the customer eats for “free”, the longer he/she stays at the bar, the more thirsty he or she becomes, and the more alcohol consumed.

This saying could also be regarded as relevant when procuring school services:

Clearly, “Free School Meals” are a good thing for the children who benefit from them, but they are not “free” as the tax payer picks up the tab.

Public sector frameworks

Frameworks enable institutions to complete compliant tender processes with a list of pre-qualified companies who have already been through a listing process. Such frameworks are owned by public sector organisations and their infrastructure funded by charges levied.

Using a framework can seem attractive as they can appear to be “free” for a school, college or multi-academy trust to use for tendering though there is usually a levy -payable by the winning bidder to the framework/purchasing organisation- throughout the contract period.

Despite bidding companies being encouraged not to show the cost of this levy in their tender submissions, they do have to allow for this cost somewhere, so the client organisation pays for using the framework one way or another. How much an academy or other institution pays will depend upon what the percentage levy and annual turnover is for a framework and should your school or academy also need specialist support and advice to run a tender process you will have to pay for this on top of the framework.

An indicative example would be a secondary school requiring a 5-year service contract with a projected annual turnover of £250,000. A .75% framework charge -which the school ultimately pays for- would be £1,875 per annum or £9,375 over the contract term. Additionally, should the school also need specialist support to effectively manage the process, there may be a charge in the region of £5000 meaning the school funds £14,375 over the life of the contract.

Commercial buying organisations/clubs

Some of these organisations boast about not charging direct fees as their costs are paid by the successful supplier. On the basis “there is no such thing as a free lunch”, contractors have to allow for these costs in their tender price. From our experience, the fees -also levied as an annual % to winning bidders and ultimately paid for by the client-can be significantly higher than public sector frameworks.

In summary, when considering how to get best value from services such as school meals and cleaning, there is an extensive menu of options available to the buyer. Picking the right way to tender services is about clear fixed pricing and working with a specialist, trusted partner who works for-and is paid directly by- you our client.

Please get in touch if you would like a clear, affordable quotation for partnering with Matriculate Consulting to tender your services. One thing for sure-we won’t be including a “free lunch”!

02 Mar

Matriculate sponsors Mad March Hare

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Matriculate Consulting are proud to be sponsors and supporters of the Mad March Hare event madmarchhare.org.uk/

On Sunday 25th March 2018-the eleventh year of this fabulous event- hundreds of entrants will head off from Lydiard Park Academy, Swindon on a 5k or 10K route raising money for Breast Cancer Now.

After the event, many entrants, spectators and volunteers tuck in to a range of healthy snacks in the Mad March Hare café which is set up in the school catering area.

The event aims to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get out and enjoy some exercise with their friends and families with many turning out in whacky outfits!

Over the first 10 years the Mad March Hare team have raised an incredible £100,000

We look forward to seeing you all on the day-GOOD LUCK!

11 Aug

The School Food Plan 3 years on – feast or famine?

Since the 2013 School Food Plan (SFP) and investment in Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM), government continues to reform education, the UK endures austerity and planning our EU exit.

While few would argue against the longer term benefits of growing, cooking and eating proper food, perhaps it is time to reflect on whether a £600m annual investment is delivering returns (sic), what progress is being made on the School Food Plan actions and what the future holds for school meals?

What the School Food Plan and UIFSM have done for meal uptake

According to the last SFP annual update over 85% of infant pupils are now taking meals and it is thought that take up across the whole primary age group is now averaging 75%

Are schools getting a fair share from the extra meals served or are caterers and suppliers enjoying second helpings on the proceeds?

As many primary schools now serve meals to over three quarters of their pupils, many services are now self-sustainable or capable of generating surpluses for re-investment.

What isn’t always clear is whether the financial rewards from a marked increase in meal numbers is being shared equitably between the school, the staff and the caterer.

Ultimately, schools provide customers, time, equipment and dining space so, as well as the undoubted health, social and academic benefits from successful services, they are surely entitled to a fair share of the extra income -if only to meet higher energy costs.

Similarly, while schools are aware of the need to comply with tendering legislation, this can be a daunting task to fit in to busy schedules,-especially when the daily service runs reasonably well.

So, is your school is striking the right balance or could a professional review help you do even better?


Have the extra meals over stretched kitchens and compromised hygiene and safety? 

With a typical 50% increase in daily meals, primary schools have adapted services to cope with the extra demand and hard-working kitchen teams have risen well to the challenge. Sometimes this pressure has led to safety and hygiene being compromised and, with Environmental Health Officers unable to inspect premises as often, it is worth taking a proactive approach to protect a vulnerable age group.

The School Food Plan Office has closed so is the cupboard bare?

The funded SFP office is closed so time will tell if the School Food Plan Alliance – a large group of well-intentioned and very busy professionals- will keep up with the SFP published actions and continue providing valued support, teachers’ cookery training and workforce development.

Similarly, the All Party Parliamentary Group on school food provides a forum for the discussion of matters relating to food education in schools; to push school food up the political agenda; and to provide a vehicle through which external organisations concerned with school food, child hunger and food education can share best practice and establish shared positions and priorities. Let’s hope this forum delivers.

How to have a good service and get a fair slice of the school meals cake

There is little doubt that the School Food Plan improvements should have sustainable rewards for health and education but, in the shorter term, the jury is out on whether schools are receiving enough of the financial benefit from these extra pupil meals or whether they have the time to look for budgetary savings which may already be in their kitchen cupboard.

Working solely in education, Matriculate Consulting will help get best value from your catering service regardless of whether you contract out or run in house.

For an entirely free first meeting to explore the best way forward please call Robert on (07342) 951449 or email robert@matriculateconsulting.co.uk


02 May

Budget sets out academies plan

Chancellor George Osborne has used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies and extend the school day.Portrait Of Schoolchildren Standing In Classroom

Schools must become academies by 2020 or have official plans to do so by 2022, he told MPs.

The proceeds of a sugar tax on fizzy drinks will boost sport in primary schools, while secondaries will get funds for after-school activities.

There will also be a new focus on school performance in northern England.

Mr Osborne said a review, carried out by Professor Adrian Smith, would consider whether maths should be compulsory until the age of 18.

And an extra £500m would be made available to ensure a “fair funding formula” for schools – aimed at addressing imbalances in the system – is up and running by the end of the Parliament.

Mr Osborne said: “Providing schooling is the single most important thing we can do to help children from a disadvantaged background to succeed.”

It was also the single most important thing that could be done to boost the long term success of the country, he added.

Therefore, he pledged to “set schools free” from local bureaucracy, so by 2020 all schools must have converted or be in the process of converting to academy status


02 Oct

Universal Free School Meals

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Are you ready for Universal Infant Free School Meals?

Introducing Universal Infant Free School Meals for many schools is proving a challenge.

From September 2014 all maintained infant and primary schools, academies, free schools, special schools and pupil referral units with children in reception, year 1 and 2 must provide free meals for infants.

Many schools have concerns about the implementation including:

“How will we manage with the size of our kitchen and dining area”?

“Do we have sufficient and suitable equipment”?

“Will our catering team cope – do they have the capabilities”?

“Can we get additional capital funding”?

“Will introduction of UIFSM may affect the pupil premium”?

Matriculate is working with schools who need that professional advice and practical support to implement UIFSM and the increase in meal uptake

You can choose to work with Matriculate as an extended part of your senior management team, to support all aspects of your catering service, including the School Food Plan and UIFSM, or use Matriculate merely in the specific areas where you require our time, expertise and resource.

Additional information about UIFSM can be found on the School Food Plan website


Are you ready?