My Burford - Mrs Helen Dickins - Catering Manager

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My Burford - Mrs Helen Dickins - Catering Manager


Our Catering Manager Mrs Helen Dickins reflects on her role and time at Burford School as part of our new 'My Burford' series.

This feature series aims to shine a spotlight on the superb staff team at Burford who make it possible for us to offer 'the best of education' to our students.

I took on the role of Catering Manager at Burford School in January 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to make the news. I left my position as Unit Manager with the City of Edinburgh Council, in which I cooked

and managed my way around inner-city high schools and primaries, setting up new kitchens and sending out hot food to old kitchens to shift south, unaware of what the year would have in store for all of us.

Whilst this may not have appeared to be an auspicious start to a new adventure in the south of England, I believe that the stars were in alignment and despite lockdowns, school closures, a stalled house build and social-distancing, Burford was meant to be, and I continue to develop the catering and hospitality operation with enthusiasm and optimism. Daily life at Burford School is vigorous, dynamic and empowering and our young people have many opportunities to explore their potential throughout the day with the support and encouragement of the staff both in and out of the classrooms.

Our school community is close-knit and collaborative and with this in mind, whilst this role is multi-faceted, my primary focus is customer satisfaction – with our students being our major and most discerning stakeholders. I aim to ensure we consistently offer well-balanced, affordable and appealing options across our dining outlets and that during meal times, all students and staff feel the sense of inclusion and community that Burford prides itself on. If I think we have brightened a young person’s day with something good to eat, my job remains a source of satisfaction and joy. Our boarding and international students rely on the school community for comfort and care during term time and I firmly believe food is often the simplest route to a sense of well-being.

In response to the changes and growth of the school over these three years we have seen the Pod successfully become a vital, quick snack stop; a wider selection of hot, healthy meals including curries, pasta and roasts added at lunchtime in the main dining room; and the beautiful new Burford Café is ready for our Sixth Form students to relax and refuel in throughout the day.

Beyond the kitchen, I surrender to science fiction, historical romance and any post- apocalyptic literature that second-hand book sellers and our excellent school library can supply. When I am not exploring the hidden gems of Oxford and sampling the diversity of its eateries with my eldest son or catching a fleeting glimpse of my studious youngest son in York, I enjoy productions at the nearby RSC in Stratford and disconnecting from the daily buzz with a rediscovered excitement for swimming and perfecting the tumble- turn.

2024 is only just hitting its stride but as we settle into the new calendar year the catering team is ever-changing and adapting to the needs of the school and we are looking forward to warmer days, outdoor eating under our new canopy, more good cricket teas and summer prize giving. A Food for Life Award is highly desirable in the world of school food and something that I have been exploring and wish to have secured by the end of this academic year. In the meantime, we continue to nourish and fuel our future adults and dedicated school community.