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Tudor Grange Academies Trust: working with Pelican

Located in the Midlands, the Tudor Grange Academies Trust is a family of academies with a shared ethos

Posted by Ed Brown | February 16, 2017 | School life

Located in the Midlands, the Tudor Grange Academies Trust is a family of academies with a shared ethos, common values and collective goals. As a group of schools it provides a high quality educational experience for each and every child, while ensuring that every teacher strives to be an excellent practitioner.  Excellence and ‘striving to be the best it can be’ is a major theme running throughout the Trust.

In total, there are six schools in the Trust, which is made up of two primary and four secondary academies, one of which includes a sixth form – this works out to approximately 6,000 students and staff across all combined sites.

In 2009, a new Catering Director, Jim Mealings, joined the Trust and formed the Catering Service Department, which is an ‘In House’ department that is not driven by profit margins or constrained by purchasing restrictions, but instead focuses on providing good quality meals using quality fresh produce for a reasonable price.

When Jim started his role, the Tudor Grange Trust only consisted of two schools, however plans were in place to expand the Trust and so a priority for Jim was to establish cohesive systems to centralise the catering procurement function.

Procurement and Financial Management Systems

Jim Mealings said: “When I took over in 2009, there were some key priorities for me to manage.  The first was to bring the catering operation back in-house to gain full control, as at the time, it was being managed by a contract caterer.

Then I had to integrate a formal, centralised financial system that would provide the Trust with a clear picture on the performance of each of the catering departments, remove much of the manual processing and ultimately support us as the Trust expands.”

Jim started to assess the market for catering management software packages that would be appropriate for the Trust’s current and future needs.

“I contacted several firms however, I found their solutions to be cost prohibitive.  Justifying costs internally wasn’t really an option and so it wasn’t until I started talking to Pelican, who was recommended to me by one of my chefs, that I could see many of my requirements were being answered, and their system would really work for our organisation.”

“Once I saw the Pi system and what it can do, I could really see the benefits for our Trust,” explained Jim. “I had other companies pitching to us but I just couldn’t see the value in their offerings. With the Pi tool, what sold it to me was the fact that it would take a massive amount of work away from the school’s finance department.   They literally receive hundreds of inbound invoices each week, which have to be manually added onto our system. It’s an entire job in itself! Accuracy is always an issue, invoices would go missing, and simply the whole process takes so much time.  With Pi, it would remove this burden, improve accuracy and ultimately put us in better control.”

Apart from helping our finance team to manage supplier invoice payments the Pi system also enables users to have access to monthly statements and supplier invoices, review category spend, track detailed product purchasing data and trends, analyse and monitor budgets and produce management reports.  Other Pi modules also include stock management, online product ordering and menu & recipe analysis.

“With the Pi system, we now have a centralised view of exactly what is being ordered by each catering department across the Trust," said Jim. "The chefs and catering managers within each of the schools use the tool and have adopted the system without an issue.  An important point is that any tool that we adopt must be easy to use, or the chefs and catering managers wouldn’t have used it. They couldn’t have a system that adds a burden to their working day.”

“On top of this,” continued Jim, “I have received very good feedback from the team regarding Pi – it’s easy to find your way around the system and doesn’t scare chefs away from using it.  In previous jobs, I’ve used systems that have been extremely arduous.  This is a breath of fresh air.  I have a complete view on day to day operations and can pull off reports to monitor and track spend, which the management team really values.” 

EU Tender & Supply Chain Management

“While my primary goal was to integrate a centralised catering management tool, it’s been great to be able to receive Pelican’s expertise in other areas.  They supported us with the EU Tender and were able to realise cost savings of 13% across frozen, chilled and grocery product lines, which equates to almost £40,000 in savings.   Furthermore, they have also delivered further savings of 9% on the fruit and vegetable purchases, which for the Trust is a great advantage.  Pelican fully managed the process for us, which meant there was no additional work-load on our side, and their professionalism meant we were able to realise savings that can be fed back into the operations here at our schools.”

The Trust has recently embarked on a project to now review its nutritional standards and allergen information and so is working alongside Pelican to review this across all school sites.

“There are some real added-value benefits of working with Pelican,” commented Jim. “One example is that one of our schools has a requirement to serve Halal food.  I worked with Shabaz Mohammed at Pelican, who came and saw me and was really helpful; he was able to give me some very good advice and it’s great to have professionals on hand to support us with all areas of our catering function.”

Since working with Pelican and implementing Pi, we now have a completely transparent financial framework that supports the Trust in managing both the operations and budgets associated with running multiple catering departments.

The Pi monthly reporting can go into great depth, if needed, and this gives real confidence to everyone here at the Trust on what is being produced.  It really has delivered a consistent, centralised approach, which can expand and adapt in line with our organisation’s growth.”

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