School cook

School cooks provide nutritious, balanced and value-for-money meals to children every day in term time.

What’s involved

The role of school cook / catering manager could include:

  • Ordering food
  • Planning menus according to a fixed budget and following guidelines on nutrition and healthy eating
  • Monitoring and managing supplies within a budget
  • Supervising the work of catering staff, including allocation of duties and work rotas
  • Developing relationships with food suppliers
  • Liaising with site manager
  • Complying with food safety legislation

Skills and experience you will need

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good standards of hygiene
  • Organised and methodical
  • Experience of catering
  • Supervising a team of catering staff

Entry requirements

It is up to schools and local authorities 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.

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 local authority whether they would accept the qualification. 

Schools usually expect cooks to have a qualification in Food Preparation and Cooking. It can often help if you have further qualifications in Kitchen Supervision or Kitchen Management.

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 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. 

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