Teacher Talk

Eileen Miller is the head teacher of Our Lady of Grace Primary School in Greenwich, south-east London, one of the schools featured in the Channel 4 series 'Jamie's School Dinners'
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The Independent Online

How did you first hear about 'Jamie's School Dinners'?

How did you first hear about 'Jamie's School Dinners'?

I read about the scheme in the local paper when Kidbrooke School was used as a pilot last summer. We were sent a form asking us to attend a lunch at Fifteen [Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Shoreditch], and we sent along one of our staff. They were served a salmon pie and only afterwards did Jamie reveal that each portion cost just 37p. Our staff member rushed to the front of the queue and we were picked.

What sort of changes has Jamie made to the menu?

Children will say they don't like vegetables before even trying them. It's important to train them at as young an age as possible that broccoli won't kill them. Jamie was clever about it. He came up with a sauce made from seven vegetables that he could use as a pasta sauce or a pizza base. It's a brilliant way of getting the vegetables into the children without them knowing or fussing about it. Jamie has been very vocational about this. It's a crusade for him. We'd all been looking at the problem of school food, and he's zoomed in and finally got something done about it.

How have the children, parents and teachers reacted?

Our pupils are 50 per cent African and when puddings were withdrawn from the menu they were delighted. They already preferred fresh fruit to sponge and custard, so it was no hardship for them to make the change. I never had the heart to encourage children to eat soggy mash, smiley faces and dead sausage rolls, and the staff never used to eat lunch with the children. Now they have it every day. We've certainly had no complaints from our parents. I convinced them fairly swiftly that it was for the children's benefit and they backed it.

Have the new meals had a significant effect?

Our classroom assistants said of the children's behaviour in the afternoons that their concentration levels were much higher, they didn't fight as much, they were more focused and, amazingly, they needed fewer asthma pumps. When Jamie's recipes arrived, we had good ingredients, salad every day, fresh vegetables, meat and fish from a good supplier, and all delivered frequently so that it didn't always come from the freezer. Greenwich Council are taking on the new menus across the board. They haven't much choice - they'd come under such criticism if they went back to the food we had before.

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