Jamie Oliver, healthy food, academies, and the law

Celebrity chef and healthy food campaign Jamie Oliver has now stepped into the debate about academies by complaining about the fact that academies do not have to comply with the healthy food standards for which he had previously campaigned for all schools.

Others have made the same point.

The reason this comes about is that, as direct.gov.uk explains, the healthy food standards only apply to food supplied by local authorities in maintained schools and thus not academies (or variants such as free schools); and the Department says this.

The detailed legal explanation is that:

  • section 512 of the Education Act 1996 requires local authorites to offer school meals at the schools they maintain.
  • They also have the power to provide school meals at other schools in their area (at the request of such a school).
  • But section 114A of the School Standards Act 1998 (which allows for minimum food standards to be set by regulations) only appplies to the food provided by a local authority in a maintained school.

As far as I am aware, none of the funding agreements for any of the existing academies or free schools require them to comply with those requirements. Nor do the model agreements require it for any being newly set up (although the Department could easily add it). It could in theory be added to existing agreements by amending those agreements.

So an academy can do what it likes: it can get sub-standard food from the local authority, or from some third party. Or it could, of course, decide to opt in to the requirements even though not required to do so.

Maddeningly, I can’t give you a link to a publicly available web site which shows the latest version of the actual regulations (and thus the requirements in maintained schools) themselves. So you would need to look at the 2007 regulations, as then amended by the 2008 regulations as amended by the 2011 regulations. Or here is a ‘consolidated’ version courtesy of LexisNexis showing the current position for maintained schools (and thus the protection which is not there for pupils in academies).

The School Food Trust explains what the requirements mean in practice.

Anyway, this illustrates another way in which the legal position in academies varies from that in maintained schools.

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