About ICSA

ICSA is the only independent, non-profit, regulatory body for cookery schools in the UK.

 

As a member of ICSA you will be awarded our kitemark, the seal of approval for clients and industry that you have met our essential criteria, ensuring your excellence as an educational training establishment. You will belong to an association of trusted cookery schools which the consumer can rely on to deliver consistently high standards in all areas of teaching and practice.

 

Our mission is to assess, promote and advise cookery schools of excellence and help and encourage students in choosing quality schools in the ICSA group. ICSA has been established as a regulatory body for cookery schools and importantly, a support network for a community of excellent schools who work together with the aim of sharing and encouraging best practice and skills excellence. ICSA also provides support and guidance on legislative matters and lobbies on behalf of its members.

 

The Story So Far…

The Board of Directors comprise of Seamus Geoghegan (delicious! Magazine), Nick Nairn (Nairn’s Cooking School), Nick Smith (Smith & Co Accountants), Stella West-Harling (Ashburton Cookery School) and newly appointed Managing Director Kit Maharajh (Novelli Academy)ICSA and its core values and principals were developed during the past three years. In September 2014 a Management Advisory Board of recognised sector leaders to assist, advise and help direct ICSA was established.Management Advisory Board Members are: Camilla Schneideman (Leith’s), Jean-Christophe Novelli (Novelli Academy), Andrew Maxwell (Tante Marie), Dominic O’Nions (Ashburton Cookery School) and Jo Bertinet (Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School).

These heads of renowned cookery schools bring a wealth of experience from chef tutoring to marketing and web development skills. Their role is to provide feedback and be part of the decision-making process especially during the first few developing years of ICSA. The Board is in constant dialogue with each other and the Directors and aims to meet quarterly to discuss and vote on procedural subjects and steer the direction of ICSA and to set acceptable protocols for its members.

The Manager of ICSA is Kate Baily, using her skills acquired over the past 20 years as a Journalist and Picture Editor for National Newspapers to develop a media presence for ICSA. At present she also handles recruitment of new members, general administration, social media and all things editorial.

Inspectors

With the accreditation process and criteria established, ICSA has three Inspectors, who are all experienced and respected sector professionals.The assessment process and criteria are fundamental to the credibility of ICSA. These cover both the legal and professional standards. Having been developed by Stella West-Harling and academics at the University of Exeter, these documents were designed and interpreted into a user-friendly format by the ICSA Management Advisory Board.

Each potential member undergoes a rigorous assessment lasting 4-6 hours. During this time, teaching will be observed, premises are inspected and documentation which fulfill the legal requirements for cookery schools are seen and collated, along with marketing materials. If a school satisfies the criteria they are awarded the kite mark and become eligible immediately for all ICSA benefits.

An important criteria for membership of ICSA is that every member should have a dedicated, fully equipped and regulated teaching kitchen.

Should a school not meet the criteria, they are given extensive feedback and support in order to help them improve in highlighted areas. They are required to provide evidence of changes and a follow up inspection is sometimes necessary to ensure the highest standards. Until the appropriate standards have been met, the school will be classified as an Associate Member and will not have full access to our marketing support services but ICSA will try to help and advise the schools to improve their standards.

Press & Marketing

One of the key areas of focus for ICSA’s is the ongoing mission to raise
the profile of ICSA and its members. To this end ICSA has had articles regularly placed in the national press – The Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Metro along with S Magazine reaching millions of readers. ICSA has been featured in delicious! Magazine in print and online and they are currently building a database to search for ICSA members on the delicious! website.

Website & Social Media

The majority of ICSA’s potential audience and our members are mobile or second screen users. On these devices a significant proportion of users use social media to browse and interact online..

ICSA recognises the importance of social media and has been building a Twitter presence and Facebook profile with galleries of the schools, top stories from our news service and last minute course offers for members. ICSA looked at social media strategy and rather than a blanket approach ‘following’ and ‘liking’ people ICSA targeted who we ‘follow’. This means ICSA’s second tier reach of Twitter is considerable. At present we estimate 80% of our tweets are retweeted with a reach of between 2,000 and 19,000 secondary followers.

ICSA’s Facebook page has had very positive feedback from schools and other agencies. We believe this to be because of the visual format of the site. ICSA’s website is largely informative, whereas ICSA’s Facebook page effectively shows the quality in aesthetic terms of our schools, their facilities and premises.

ICSA’s website is vital as it provides a structured platform for recruitment, member information and our school database. As the hub of all of ICSA’s information and the news platform which is linked to social media, we plan to develop our database and search mechanics to become the ‘go-to’ place for vetted cookery schools, searching geographically or by category, and with additional funds this will become possible. We are developing a member login section, jobs board and last minute courses notice board from members with discounts for ICSA users.

Lobbying

ICSA has launched campaigns with NFU to encourage schools and their students to support UK dairies by paying using a cost plus model for milk or buying locally. We supported Jamie Oliver’s food education lobby in Spring 2015 and celebrated National Vegetarian Week with a social media push and marketing advice, also placing an article in Daily Express.

We were actively involved in the debate about allergens legislation and were the first agency to publicise the U-turn from the FSA about allergens labelling for Cookery schools hands on classes. This potentially saved our members thousands of pounds in rewriting course materials and a great deal of time.

ICSA is also lobbying for the removal of VAT on Independent Cookery Schools’ courses.

The Future of ICSA

  • Members only section on the site, which will include an information library
  • Jobs board which will be linked to members’ sites enabling other members to view vacancies and receive work notifications. A charge will be made for each advert. This will link to Employment agencies in the UK and overseas.
  • An advertising service for last minute courses with a small fee payable for each posting.
  • An affiliated member’s area, where companies associated with the industry can pay to be displayed with links to their sites, giving them maximum exposure to some 100,000+ focused clientele and be involved in the ICSA Annual Cookery School Day in 2016