Progress on school dinners could be rewound after Brexit

Progress on school dinners could be rewound after Brexit

Schools will be able to be “flexible” in what dinners they serve children in England if there are food shortages because of Brexit, the government has said.

A no-deal technical notice issued by the Department for Education explains that the government will not be able to guarantee the supply chain of any food that comes in from the continent because of the prospect of checks in places such as Calais and Dunkirk.

But, it adds: “Schools have significant flexibilities within the school food standards.”

The current guidelines say schools must provide “high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables as well as bread, other cereals and potatoes”.

They cannot provide sugary drinks, crisps or “more than two portions of deep-fried, battered or breaded food a week”.

However, with widespread industry warnings of risks in the supply of fresh meat and vegetables from the continent and Ireland, this means schools are at risk of being unable to meet the DfE’s guidelines.

That would mean rewinding progress made by campaigners such as Jamie Oliver in banishing unhealthy food from the canteen tables.

In the no-deal notice, the government says it has been “working to plan arrangements that ensure goods can continue to flow into the UK without significant delays from additional controls and checks”.

However, it warns that it “does not have control over the checks imposed by EU members states at the EU side of the border”.

Representatives in the food and haulage sector have already warned ofpotential food shortages, particularly of perishable foods that come from southern Europe during winter months such as fruit and vegetables.

Foods such as cheese are also under threat with big suppliers in Ireland already warehousing cheddar to mitigate against the potential damage of no deal.

The government said in its notice that it “will continue to work with food suppliers to prepare for a no-deal departure from the EU”.

“Schools have significant flexibilities within the school food standards. Local authorities and schools must exercise their power to provide meals to all registered pupils who request one,” the note states.

Last September the government appointed a minister to oversee the protection of food supplies through the Brexit process amid rising concerns about the prospect of crashing out of the EU.

Schools are also told that hiring teachers from abroad will get more difficult because their qualifications may not be automatically recognised.

“In a no-deal scenario, the current system of reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications between the EU, EEA Efta and Switzerland and the UK will not apply after 29 March 2019,” the department states, although teachers who have already had their qualifications recognised in the UK will not be affected.

For school trips, the DfE notes that there are “a number of issues you will need to be aware of when planning travel to the EU for staff or students”, including passport duration.