Caboolture Special School staffs tuckshop with senior hospitality students

At Caboolture Special School some 40km north of Brisbane, Qld, the school’s hospitality students take a hands-on role in the tuckshop – being directly involved with the preparation and serving of food.


The school, which caters for students with intellectual disability as well as physical impairment, has been open for almost 30 years and at present has around 260 students. It is the largest special school in Queensland, with classes ranging from prep through year 12. Students are placed into age groupings which rotate through each year.


Teacher aid Kaye McGaughey, who has been involved with the tuckshop since its inception, remembers how it came about: “Our school was quite small to start with and we never had a big P&C involvement, so the tuckshop didn’t exist on a day to day basis because there wasn’t a P&C association to run it.


“Eventually we started it up to run one day per week and I became involved, and we brought the students in to work in it. Then we grew big enough to open two days a week and it was incorporated into our senior school hospitality teaching program.”


The tuckshop has continued operating on this basis for 12 years now.

“We’ve gotten bigger and expanded with the capabilities of our students,” Kaye explains. “We used to do two days of tuckshop and one day of soup kitchen, where we provided soup for the staff in the winter, and also made strawberry jam, pickles and pickled onions, which gave the students an opportunity to learn about hygiene and develop cutting skills.


“Then we expanded again as the school grew larger and today we have a coffee shop for the staff which opens each Friday and is operated by the year 10 students.”


Currently the tuckshop provides food on Wednesdays and Thursdays. “On Monday we do our food prep, cooking all our own food. On Tuesday there is more prep and last year we also introduced a juice bar as a means of enabling year 10 students to learn about food safety practices.” The former soup kitchen was incorporated into the juice bar program and both have since been superseded by the current Friday coffee shop.


Hospitality teacher Tony Dwan says this year there are eight students across years 11 and 12 involved in the tuckshop program: “As part of a partnership with TAFE in Brisbane, the students undertake hospitality competencies to complement their literacy and numeracy studies,” he explains.


“They study theory on a Monday and Tuesday, and this aligns with what they learn on the practical side while working in the tuckshop.” That includes knife skills and food hygiene, safety and handling through the preparing, presenting and serving of meals. The students are also responsible for packaging food, for washing up and for cleaning of the tuckshop premises at the end of each term.


“We also do a lot of catering for outside agencies and departmental representatives who come in to conduct personal development training,” Kaye adds, “and we have students catering for morning and afternoon teas and lunches as well if requested – we’re pretty flexible.”


All the tuckshop’s food is prepared on the premises, with pasta one of the biggest sellers. “We make our own bolognese sauce and the kids love it,” Kaye says. “We also make our own pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and wraps, and salads – all of which fit within the Smart Choices program. All the foods on our menu are categorised as green so we’ve done really well.”


“The students also make muffins for the tuckshop as well as cakes for special days,” Tony tells us, “also slices and cookies, milkshakes … whatever’s required for different catering events.”


Kaye says support from the school community has been terrific. “Some staff were a little dubious at first about students preparing the food, but when they saw how stringent we were about food safety and hygiene, there were no big hurdles to persuade anyone. The only hurdle we have now is when we can’t run the staff coffee shop, then we get in big strife! The staff love it and the parents have given fantastic support.”


She adds: “Our students all love working in the tuckshop – we don’t have students that don’t want to be here. They wear a different uniform when on tuckshop duty – a green shirt – and when the kids come through from primary to secondary school, the ones who are interested in hospitality can’t wait to wear that green shirt, to show the school they’re involved in the program! So they take a lot of ownership of it.”


“Whether in terms of work or just at home, what they learn here they can carry into the future,” Tony Dwan emphasises. “It’s not just theory, but tangible skills which can be used over the longer term. And of course we try to encourage students to take opportunities to get into employment or volunteer work within the hospitality sector.”


“Some students have had employment after they’ve graduated,” Kaye confirms, “and that’s been a really nice thing to follow through and see where our students go. We’ve had interest from local businesses in providing opportunities for our students after they’ve left school and that’s very rewarding.”