Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said “An army marches on its stomach”. The same can be said of a school – without proper nutrition, pupils cannot learn effectively and their teachers cannot teach them effectively.

At Bishop’s Stortford College, with almost 1200 day and boarding pupils aged from 4 to 18 and over 300 members of staff, it is safe to say that their catering team would have kept both Napoleon and his army very happy.

Catering manager Gary Law and his team of 27 have now won a total of seven Gold CAP (Continuous Advancement Programme) Awards in successive years.

A major national scheme, the CAP Awards recognise excellence in catering and are regarded as the highest measure of quality, safe practice and service.

The college is committed to a programme of healthy eating, and Gary’s team are the only school team in the country to achieve this. They continue to gain scores well over 90 per cent, a remarkable achievement given that they have to demonstrate improvement year on year.

Founded in 2011, CAP’s objective was to help housekeeping, cleaning and catering services to gain the recognition they deserve within the education and healthcare sectors.

That objective has been achieved and today the CAP teams help organisations throughout the UK and Ireland to improve standards of quality, hygiene and cleanliness through a positive and dynamic development programme.

They recognise that the services provided by housekeeping and cleaning and catering teams are a vital element in cementing a school’s reputation for commitment to quality. In the time of Covid, this has never been more important to everyone involved.

"How often do you walk down a street and it’s the litter you notice first?"

The CAP Awards development scheme incorporates regulatory standards, so participants — currently just shy of 50 schools in the UK — can be confident of regulatory compliance when the inspectors call by simply maintaining levels of performance and following the CAP action plan.

CAP inspector Ian Jackson said: “We were most impressed by what we found during this unannounced visit to Bishop’s Stortford College.

“The catering team are to be congratulated on their ‘tasting plate’ scores for lunch and supper services and, despite being under the additional pressure of our rigorous assessments on this day, the interaction between the pupils and the catering team is to be commended.

“When combined with the catering team’s determination and motivation to beat their previous scores, it all bears well for the service.”

But the backbone of a busy school isn’t just about the catering and nutrition, it’s about the very fabric of their environment, the buildings and grounds, and how they are cared for.

Bishop’s Stortford College enjoys a spacious campus: state of the art architecture sits cheek by jowl with Arts and Crafts buildings dating back to the 1920s and 30s.

"CAP’s objective was to help services gain the recognition they deserve"

The original school building, School House, which was built before the establishment of the school in 1868, is about to undergo major refurbishment, transforming it into a new administrative hub and college reception, with classrooms and the senior school staff common room. Also on site are three new boarding houses, opened this academic year, all enjoying en suite facilities.

But, with many other buildings over 100 years old, there are certainly many challenges facing the housekeeping team here. How often do you walk down a street and it’s the litter you notice rather than the shops or the buildings?

The college is most fortunate in that it doesn’t have a litter problem and enjoys many beautiful buildings and this allows everyone to focus on the job in hand – learning and teaching.

Following in the footsteps of the catering team, the college housekeeping and cleaning team, in collaboration with staff from a partner contractor, Nightingales, has also recently achieved the Gold standard from CAP.

Participating in the awards programme for the first time, the college underwent an unannounced assessment in May 2018 scoring 91.4 per cent for cleanliness and compliance. The benchmark level for Gold is 75 per cent.

Facilities manager Tim Hanks and the team will now be working on areas where they must improve.

Assistant bursar Greg Stewart said, “The whole college community is extremely proud of what our housekeepers and Nightingales have achieved together. Along with the Gold Awards for catering already received, it demonstrates our commitment to the manner in which we look after our pupils and staff and the great pride we take in it. It’s a real boost for the work of our support staff to be recognised in this way.”

College headmaster Jeremy Gladwin said, “Bishop’s Stortford College is a true community and the awards given to our caterers and to our cleaning team have highlighted the work of two of our often unsung heroes. To be recognised by an external agency for excellence is tremendous and comes on the back of an outstanding ISI inspection result the year before.”