Top £40,000-a-year private school Cheltenham College apologises for serving RAW chicken to pupils after the chef mistook it for fish

  • Cheltenham College has apologised after serving raw chicken in a school dinner
  • Five sixth formers were served uncooked chicken goujons and informed staff
  • Chef ran out of fish goujons and mistakenly used same cooking time for chicken 
  • The private school charges fees of up to £40,000 a year and was founded in 1841
  • Was your child served raw meat at school? Email [email protected]

Was your child served raw meat at school ?

Email [email protected] 

One of Britain’s most distinguished private schools has apologised after it served pupils raw chicken in a school dinner.

Cheltenham College – which charges boarding fees up to £40,000 a year for sixth formers- has launched an urgent investigation after a mishap in its kitchens on April 29.

In a letter to parents, bursar Phil Attwell explained that uncooked chicken goujons were served to five sixth formers after the chef mistook them for fish goujons – which look similar but take less than half the time to cook.

Mr Attwell said he was ‘extremely sorry’ for the error. He also apologised after a larva initially thought to be a maggot was served to a pupil on the same day.

The bursar said: ‘Cheltenham College is extremely sorry that this lapse has occurred. We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure that the food that we serve aligns with the standards that our pupils and you as parents expect from us.

‘Even though 90 more fish portions had been produced than the previous Friday, the dining hall counter was running out of fish as the end of service approached. 

‘A member of the chef team cooked off what they believed to be fish goujons, which require five minutes cooking time.

Raw chicken goujons were served to Sixth Form pupils at Cheltenham College, who informed staff their dinners were uncooked

Cheltenham College is housed in Grade I-listed Thirlestaine House, which dates from the 1820s. Described by Pevsner as ‘the grandest Neo-Greek house in Cheltenham’, it was purchased by the college in 1947

‘However, they had in fact cooked chicken goujons which require 12 minutes cooking time. The member of staff took a shortcut by not properly checking (using a probe) that 75 degrees had been reached; the chicken was sent to be served, in a significantly undercooked state.

‘Five Upper College pupils received the chicken but notified staff as soon as they spotted the mistake; the meals were quickly recalled, and a replacement meal provided.’

The Victorian school, which opened in 1841, currently has around 640 pupils. 

It is housed in Grade I-listed Thirlestaine House, which stands on Bath Road and dates from the 1820s. Described by Pevsner as ‘the grandest Neo-Greek house in Cheltenham’, it was purchased by the college in 1947.

Mr Attwell said the school and its caterer Holroyd Howe are reviewing their internal processes to prevent a repeat incident and the member of staff responsible is being ‘managed through Holroyd Howe internal processes’.

Cheltenham College bursar Phil Attwell apologised for the mishap and says the school (pictured) is reviewing its internal processes as a result

Addressing the larva complaint, Mr Attwell wrote: ‘A larva, initially thought to be a maggot was found in the meal of one pupil at the same lunch service on Friday.

‘On 5 May, our sweetcorn supplier Bidfood wrote telling us, based on the photograph that “it appears to be a corn borer, a typical pest of corn, which possibly arrived with the raw material and unfortunately escaped control.”‘

‘While it is understood that fresh salad and vegetable items may carry bugs of various types, we of course do not expect these to make it through to serving points. 

‘Once again, Holroyd Howe are reviewing their processes and those of their suppliers to reduce the likelihood of fresh items carrying unexpected surprises which can then make it through to the plate.’

Mr Attwell’s letter also revealed that a survey last year included complaints about about hair in food, while a number of parents had written to the College over the last few days, with general comments ‘about the food not being good enough’.

He added: ‘Staff eat daily in the Dining Hall, and while it may be true that many pupils might be reluctant to make a complaint about food, we know that staff would quickly let us know of any slip in standards. 

‘We will continue to work with Holroyd Howe and with our pupils to ensure that there are timely and frequent opportunities to secure feedback on food provision, so that we can narrow down general issues to specific ones that can either be corrected or explained. 

‘The November 2021 survey contained several comments about hair in food. 

‘Holroyd Howe have reviewed their systems, and while hair covering is not mandatory in catering, it has been reintroduced into all food environments to ensure that opportunities for contamination from farm to plate are reduced.’

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