Feeding the pupils in our care has always been critical to the successful delivery of our mission: Christ’s Hospital was originally founded to provide children with food, clothing, lodging and an education. Today, our temporary kitchen prepares food for almost 900 pupils and up to 350 staff each day: around 880,000 meals a year. Without it, the School simply cannot operate.
The current kitchen was constructed as a temporary measure nearly a decade ago and is at the end of its operational life. Over the last two years, the Board and Council have given careful consideration to a suitable long-term solution. Agreement in principle for a new facility was given by Council and the Board of School Governors in March 2017. The CH team has worked closely with the local planning authority and Historic England to gain planning consent which was granted in September 2017. The project was put out to tender and subsequently approved by Council on 6 December.
Following the tender process, a contract has been awarded to ARJ Construction Ltd. for £11.7 million (plus VAT and associated professional costs). The cost associated with the build takes into account recent increased pupil numbers, new building regulations and boarding standards, and also our wish to incorporate an integrated Food and Nutrition department. A significant additional cost from when this project was first considered in 2008 will be standard rate VAT which from 2012 became chargeable on all listed building works. The tender prices were also influenced by an acceleration of building cost inflation, both current and projected. Work will start in early 2018 with a target for completion in the summer of 2019.
The Food and Nutrition department will provide a new permanent teaching space for pupils with modern equipment, adding significant value at a time when awareness of good nutrition plays an increasingly important role in education. The facility will also support an expanded commercial programme which operates during the Easter and summer holidays.
The impact on our financial plans and core mission
Christ’s Hospital’s improved financial position in recent years is the result of improved control of expenditure, better fundraising, strong investment returns, higher pupil numbers, and increased commercial income. Provided that we continue to meet our financial targets over the next five years, including continued growth in fundraising, we can meet our aspiration to reduce the level of full-fee payers by 1% per annum.
The significant investment in the planned maintenance programme over the last ten years means that projected expenditure on site maintenance, including the boarding houses, is lower than previously forecast. This increases our capacity to invest in a new catering facility that will meet the School’s needs and be sustainable for the next 50 years and beyond.
The central tenets of our school mission are clear and our continued strength in adhering to them must rely on our pupils’ access to good health and wellbeing. At a fundamental level, the new catering facility will support our ability to fulfil the mission and I commend the new build to you. I hope you will give it your enthusiastic and generous support.