Freshly prepared, hot lunches are on the menu for the first time at High Ash C.E. School in Great Brickhill as children, staff and parents proudly hosted the grand opening of their new dining room and kitchen facility.
The Ash Tree Restaurant was officially opened (on 13 January) by local MP and Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr John Bercow, at a ceremony which was also attended by members of the local community. All attendees enjoyed tea and cakes prepared by the new restaurant team.
The school’s 265 children sang a food-themed song specially written for the opening ceremony by Year 4 students, Juno Canning and Lucy Whitelegge, and a blessing was performed by the Reverend John Waller, Rector of St. Mary the Virgin, Great Brickhill.
The project to install kitchen and dining facilities at the school was prompted by the Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) initiative, as introduced by the Coalition Government in 2014. The aim of UIFSM is to provide healthy, nutritious, hot free school meals for all infant pupils every lunchtime in England’s schools, but High Ash C.E. was one of thousands of schools in England with no facilities to prepare or serve hot meals.
Funding to build the new facility was secured from the Department for Education, following a proposal which set out the school’s vision to provide hot lunches as part of a wider initiative to implement the School Food Plan at High Ash C.E.
The School Food Plan is a national initiative supported by the Department for Education which promotes the pleasures of growing, cooking and eating proper food, with the aim of improving the academic performance of children, the health of the nation and promoting learning about nutrition as part of a new curriculum. High Ash C.E. was one of the first primary schools in the country to be awarded funding in this way.
Mr Bercow gave his full support to the project from its early stages.
He said: “I’m delighted to be here today to celebrate the opening of the Ash Tree Restaurant. The benefits of providing high quality hot meals for children to enjoy in such a wonderful and sociable environment are huge, and the school’s focus on learning about food and nutrition as a key part of the curriculum can only help to improve health and wellbeing in the longer term.”
Louise Eaton, Head teacher, said: “On behalf of the whole school community I’d like to thank everyone involved in this project for their time and expertise in securing the required funding and delivering our wonderful new facilities which will benefit many children at High Ash C.E now and into the future. The children are incredibly proud of the Ash Tree Restaurant and in time we hope to extend its use to benefit the wider community in Great Brickhill.”