Southampton headteacher apologises for 'completely unacceptable' food served at his school

  • The headteacher of Redbridge Community School has spoke to Sally Simmonds at ITV News Meridian about the quality of food at his school

A headteacher has apologised for the “completely unacceptable” food provided at his own school in a letter sent to parents.

Jason Ashley, head of Redbridge Community School in Southampton, asked: “How difficult is it to bake a potato?”

The secondary school’s dinners are provided by Chartwells, a national catering company.

Mr Ashley said he had no control over the food on offer to pupils and said there had been a lack of progress made after talks with the company.

“Frankly, the food that is served in the canteen is completely unacceptable, so much so, that if my own children’s school served this I would be exceptionally unhappy,” Mr Ashley wrote."

  • Mr Ashley said standards have improved since he called out the company, but says he is cynical it will last.

He added: “We have concluded with our photo evidence that Chartwells do seem to be unable to ‘bake a potato’ correctly.

"Our evidence shows that in recent times portions have gotten smaller, whilst prices have risen.

“For example, recently it was British ‘pie week’ and the pie served was of extremely poor quality when compared to our partner schools.”

Mr Ashley expressed his anger and disappointment over the standard of the meals in the message to parents and carers. Credit: Redbridge Community School

Mr Ashley said he could “no longer tolerate, provide reasons or even justify to you the unacceptable nature of the food”.

He added: “I hope that you are as angry and as disappointed as me. For those of you that pay from your hard earned wages – I can only apologise and I am sorry."

It is understood that there were some operational challenges at the school which Chartwells had been seeking to address, including staffing challenges which had temporarily affected service levels.

It is also understood there has been no reduction in portion sizes or an increase in the price of meals at the school in the last two years.

On the day ITV Meridian spoke to the school, students said the portion sizes had improved. Credit: ITV News Meridian

In a statement, a spokesman for Chartwells apologised and said: "We recognise the importance of school meals, and our teams work hard to provide good quality food every day.

“We apologise that in this instance our usual level of service has fallen below the high standards we demand.

"We are committed to working in collaboration with the school and are implementing an immediate action plan to rectify these issues.”

The organisation previously faced a backlash in 2021 after photographs of their free school meal parcels were shared and criticised on social media.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson said in a Commons address the parcels were an “insult” to the families who received them, while former home secretary Priti Patel said they were “appalling in every way”.

The provider acknowledged there were local issues following school closures in a statement at the time, and vowed to add breakfast foods to the parcels to “further support children with their learning through the day”.

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