Lessons to be learnt
Monday 28th April 2003 14:09
Being a teacher in a school is rather like being a politician in government. The requirements are much the same. Both have to know their subject, deliver the principles of that subject in an inclusive way, care about their pupils or electorate, get to know them, encourage them and, ultimately, get them to achieve their full potential. A good teacher or politician will be a strategist who can prioritise.
So why is it that, when it comes to education, and particularly school catering, there are so many muddled priorities in Westminster?
Take the "targets" set by the Government to get more organic ingredients into school meals. Great idea and, in principle, it's difficult to argue with the sentiment. Although there is little hard evidence to suggest that organic food is healthier, you can't help thinking that it must be better and, therefore, it would be good to feed our children organic meals.
But the problem with this is that organic food costs more on the market and school catering budgets, often as low as 35p per child per meal, rarely allow extra expenditure on produce. Not only that, but there are all sorts of other problems associated with school catering - such as poor dining facilities and lack of time to eat meals in a civilised manner - that are far more important than serving greener apples.
Not only that, but Government "targets" have a habit of becoming "standards". You wait - before long, organic food targets in schools will become a legal requirement, with 40 different forms to fill in to prove compliance, a watchdog committee to monitor fulfilment and a system of penalties to punish those who fall short of agreed (ie imposed) values.
Organic food may, in the long term, be the preferable option for school meals. But right now, school caterers have enough on their plates and can do without more bureaucratic guidelines that will simply act as a distraction from the real issues. Please, Mr Meacher, get your priorities right.
By Forbes Mutch, Editor, Caterer & Hotelkeeper