We all have an expectation that our children will be cared for when they are at school, and we rely on our local council to ensure their safety, with a rigorous enforcement of the regulations regarding food hygiene. Young children are at a higher risk from the consequences of failing to uphold the high standards expected in these areas, and the result of such failures could be devastating for pupils.
On 12 December 2013 Holly Park Primary School kitchen was inspected by an Environmental Health Officer from Barnet Council. They gave the school a zero rating, the lowest possible, citing amongst other things:
- Cobwebs and insects over food preparation areas;
- Flaking paint from the ceiling;
- Windows that don’t shut allowing in rain, leaves and insects;
- Leaking pipe;
- Damaged floor tiles;
- Broken ventilation allowing pests into the kitchen;
- No pest control contract;
- Work surfaces and storage areas which cannot be properly cleaned;
- Mould and condensation to the skylight and ceiling in the dry store where food is stored;
- Kitchen staff using broken electrical sockets and extension leads because other electrical sockets were not working;
- No evidence of a current electrical safety certificate;
- Broken lights ;
- Broken and disused kitchen equipment which were difficult to clean behind;
- Kitchen staff WC with holes in the walls and ceiling;
- Leak in the kitchen floor;
- An insecticutor (one of those blue light machines you see in kitchens that zap flies and insects) full of dead insects;
- Inadequate and overflowing bins.
Having read the food hygiene inspection report at Holly Park, as well as the follow up visits report, it is clear that something has gone very badly wrong at this school, and that this matter needs to be brought to public attention.
In total there were 21 contraventions of law listed with timescales for remedy ranging from immediately to 28 days. Bear in mind this inspection took place a week before the school broke up for Christmas but, as far as we are aware, parents were not informed of this situation and food continued to be served from this kitchen.
On 14 January 2014 a follow up visit was made by the Environmental Health Officer. Given that this was more than 28 days after the first visit, all of the contraventions of law should have been remedied. Sadly that wasn’t the case and the follow up report reveals the following:
- The walls and ceiling had not been cleaned and there were still cobwebs and insects in the kitchen;
- The floor had only been given a temporary repair but the Environmental Health Officer required them to monitor the leak;
- Pests could still get in through the windows because they could not be shut – it was suggested that this was because the windows could not take the weight of the roof and had bowed out of shape.
- The work surfaces and shelves that could not be properly cleaned had still not been replaced;
- The electrical safety certificate had still not been produced;
- The flaking paint had not been dealt with.
This visit took place a week after the children had gone back to school and food was still being served out of the kitchen. You can read the full report here.
What is apparent is that most of these issues are structural and denote a total lack of investment in this school kitchen. Barnet are always ready to claim credit for the excellent standards in schools but this indicates they have completely overlooked essential safety in the kitchen of this school.
We would also note that two there are two other schools in the Borough that achieved inadequate food hygiene ratings, Deansbrook Junior School in Hale Drive which scored just one point (Major improvement necessary) and Underhill Infants School which scored two points (Improvement necessary).
You can read the food hygiene ratings for all Barnet schools here:
Serious questions about the situation at Holly Park must be addressed.
- Have the problems now been completely resolved and if not why not?
- Were parents fully informed of these problems? If not, why not? Surely they had a right to know -especially those parents whose children have school dinners?
- Were the governors of the school, including Cllr Brian Salinger made aware of this report? If not, why not, and if they were, did they not think parents had a right to be informed of the situation?
- Why did Barnet Council allow a kitchen in such a poor state of repair continue to operate, and why, when they were given a zero rating, did they fail to remedy so many of the contraventions within the timescale set by the Environmental Health Officer?
- Were there any conflicts of interest between Re, the council’s contractor who now operates Environmental Health, and the Council over the role of the Environmental Health Officer, given that the Officer now has two employers – Capita, before they enter and after they leave the premises, and the Council, whilst they carry out the inspection?
In the best interests of all families with children at Barnet’s schools, we ask Barnet Council to respond in full to the concerns raised here, as soon as possible, so as to reassure residents that the privatisation of council services and management of statutory roles in the One Barnet programme is not placing children or any other residents at risk.