Councils step in to provide school lunches after Carillion collapse

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The delivery of school meals and cleaning services at hundreds of schools faces uncertainty due to the collapse of construction company Carillion.

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Carillion, which has gone into liquidation, provides food and cleaning services to schools across the country

The company, which yesterday went into liquidation, was responsible for facilities management including the delivery of school meals and cleaning to 875 schools, and the design and build of new schools and classrooms.

Its catering service delivered more than 32,000 school meals every day within the primary and secondary sectors in areas including Oxfordshire, Barnsley and Nottinghamshire.

However, the Department for Education said Carillion had contracts that cover fewer than 250 schools in England.

On its website, Carillion says it has designed and built 150 schools, provides cleaning services in 245 schools and mechanical and electrical and fabric maintenance services in 683 schools.

The construction company previously sponsored an academy trust. The Discovery Academy in Greater Manchester, which was sponsored and managed by Carillion, broke away from the firm at the beginning of the month, according to reports.

Carillion also delivered education training to schools and academies with courses including ‘converting into an academy’, ‘essential skills for the SENDCo’ and mental health training.

School meals

Oxfordshire County Council, which contracted Carillion to deliver meals to 90 schools, said it had the fire service on standby to deliver food.

The council, which signed a 10-year contract with Carillion in 2012 to provide a range of services including building new schools and new classrooms, said it had been planning for the possibility of Carillion’s collapse for some time.

Alexandra Bailey, the council’s director for Property, Assets and Investment, said, 'We expect school staff will be in work as normal today but if this doesn’t happen we will provide school lunches to schools needing support, and the fire service are on standby to deliver them. We are confident no child will go hungry at school.'

Carillion also handled services in schools on behalf of Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council.

Other affected local authorities include Barnsley Council, which relied on Carillion for caretaking, cleaning and maintenance services. However, the Government has given a guarantee to the council that work contracted to Carillion will be covered.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said, ‘Parents and pupils will be alarmed at the prospect that school lunches may suddenly not be provided and their schools may not be clean and safe. Headteachers and other school staff face another strain on their excessive workloads as they try and make short-term contingency plans and new arrangements for the long-term, while Carillion staff working in and for schools will be anxious about their job security and their pensions.

‘While the Government must protect the employment and pensions of Carillion’s public sector workers it must also take a long hard look at its encouragement of private sector involvement in schools and the unnecessary risks being taken with children’s education and wellbeing.

‘The Government’s ideology is bust. It can no longer say with any credibility that the private sector can do a better job of running our public services. It will no longer have public support when taxpayers look set to bail out the private sector yet again. The country is questioning not only why the Government kept awarding a struggling company contacts but why it was also approved as a Multi Academy Trust to run schools.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'Our priority is to ensure schools can continue to operate as usual. We have planned extensively for this and have been working with local authorities and academy trusts since before Christmas to make sure contingency plans are in place. We are continuing to offer support to schools help minimise disruption for pupils through our designated advice service.'

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