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Posh dinners win prizes

Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen; Seventeen, eighteen, maids in waiting; Nineteen, twenty, my plate's empty.

The children at Britain's healthiest school are putting their nursery rhymes into practice in their canteen, as they empty the china plates that have replaced the tacky old red plastic trays.

St Mary and St Benedict Roman Catholic primary, Coventry, had dispensed with Turkey Twizzlers back while Jamie Oliver was still perfecting his souffle.

Maureen Perry, the head who retired over the summer, collected the teaching award for healthy schools on Sunday. "We always knew that every child mattered," she told the audience. "We didn't need somebody to tell us."

To her, providing a healthy school meant more than just healthy food - it also meant creating a woodland area and even an inland beach, with a pier cafe and Punch and Judy.

And, given she had preached recycling to her students, she could hardly turn down an offer from the local Debenham's store to reuse the several hundred plates and bowls that were no longer needed by its restaurant.

The "maid in the kitchen", cook Sandra Randle, happily agreed to wash 450 plates a day, rather than sluicing down the plastic trays.

Now five-year-old children are eating around the table with a knife and fork, and are serving themselves from a salad boat.

"I think the children are a lot more civilised at the table now," Mrs Perry said. "We don't get them throwing food all around, and we haven't had a single plate broken in two years."

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