Catering assistant

Catering assistants help provide nutritious, balanced and value-for-money meals to children every lunchtime under the direction of the head cook or catering manager.

What’s involved

A catering assistant role can include:

  • Planning menus, following guidelines on nutrition and healthy eating
  • Reconciling daily income
  • Preparing meals
  • Monitoring and managing supplies within a budget
  • Developing relationships with food suppliers
  • Ensuring compliance with health and safety policies

Skills and experience you will need

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good standards of hygiene
  • Organised and methodical

Entry requirements

It is up to schools and local authorities (LAs) to decide what qualifications and experience applicants need to have, so it is important to check locally. Some may employ people on the basis of their experience and potential alone. Others may require a qualification. There are many qualifications available to catering staff. Foundation certificates in food hygiene and vocational qualifications in food preparation and cooking are recommended.

The following qualification is available for those not yet employed in the role:

  • Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools

However, this award is solely theory-based, without requiring a placement in a school, so it is important to check with the school or LA whether they would accept the qualification.

Training and development

There are many qualifications available to catering staff. For example,

  • Level 1 Certificate in Food Preparation and Cooking
  • Level 2 Award in Food Safety in Catering (often known as a food hygiene certificate)
  • Level 2 Certificate in Hospitality and Catering Principles (Food Production and Cooking/Kitchen Services)
  • Level 3 Award in Supervising Food Safety in Catering.

If you need more help speak to the person at work responsible for your career development or your Union Learning Representative

Useful links

Have a look at the catering in schools role profiles under the facilities job family to find out more about the different levels you could work at.

'People 1st' develop the national occupational standards and qualifications for staff in catering roles. 

The School Food Plan

For more information in Scotland, contact Skills Development Scotland

In Northern Ireland contact Careers Service Northern Ireland  

In Wales / Cymru contact Careers Wales