Catering is one such area that was highlighted in my summary letter sent out at the end of August (see the Key findings of the parent satisfaction survey). It may well have received higher satisfaction rates than the wider NAE average or other schools within SE Asia. But the satisfaction rating of 72% as against 48% and 52% respectively (NAE average; SE Asia average) was well below our own expectations and standards.
It needs to be stated that we, in our partnership with Donkey Bakery, take our responsibilities concerning the catering provision very seriously. We monitor constantly and listen carefully to the feedback from parents, staff and children, and we always seek to act upon that feedback. As you can imagine satisfying the individual tastes of a wide cohort of people is never easy. What one person likes and appreciates, another may not; I have supplied a couple of articles to this article that parents may find of interest. (Click to read the Chemmatters (December 2011): Flavorful food and Why Does Some Food Taste Bad To Some People And Good To Others?) The Vietnamese food stall approach, being able to go to a shop that only sells one type of dish, according to your taste on the day, increases the sense that a fixed menu does not really satisfy. And were you to want a varied à la carte menu then one has to pay for that privilege. We are committed to steering a middle course within budgets that satisfies nutritionally and aesthetically.
The menus are reviewed regularly; the logistics of service and time given over to the dining experience within a busy school are examined and reflected upon regularly. From a school leadership point of view, this issue has formed a significant portion of thinking and meeting time to ensure that the school is running smoothly. Alterations have been made to queuing, serving stations and time allocated to eating is now adequate for all students. We seek to balance the nutritional needs of the students with their desire to burn off energy in play time outside. Children will often only choose the things they like rather than thinking of a balanced meal of protein, essential fats, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. We monitor this, sending children back to the serving counter if their plate does not reflect this balance. Our expectation is that children at least eat a little of each. We also talk to the children a great deal and have formed some very useful data on this issue. We want the children to know that they can speak 100% openly about this in our bid to gain and maintain the highest quality we can.
The quality of cooking, presentation and portion size are the domains of our catering partners. It is their responsibility to get this right. But our responsibility is to our students, to their welfare, health and satisfaction and to you our parents. This is our first priority in this area of school life. I renew my commitment to achieving that daily.
We are getting our part right in terms of logistics. We now rely heavily on our partners to do their part and we will be holding them increasingly accountable for their provision. It is nothing less than you as parents and our students and staff deserve.
Mr Mark Sayer - Principal of BVIS Hanoi