Claire Robson cooked up a storm for Christmas dinner at the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre in Middlesbrough.

But it's not just her lovely food that makes the pupils enjoy their meals at the school so much. It's also about Claire's approach to eating and the bond that she strikes up with the children, which she sees as a key part of her role.

Here are her golden rules for making food fun:

Take the pressure off!

"I don't care if you want a sandwich covered in gravy - who says that's not right? Relax the rules. I love it when someone comes up and has a weird combination. Last week we jokingly suggested someone had curry sauce and cheese on their jacket potato. Everyone went 'urgh' but that pupil ordered the same thing today because she enjoyed it. There's lots of rules about having to finish the main course before your pudding, but I just think 'why'? Why add extra pressure when there's already enough pressure? Coming into a room that's quite noisy to eat, there's already a lot going on, so try to make it as fun as it can be."

Have conversations about food

"When you ask children what they want, they'll say pizza, burgers, cake. They can have that in moderation, it depends how you serve it. You can make pizza healthier - they have no idea what I put in my pizza bases! We don't fry anything here, and we put veg and fruit in wherever we can. I try to encourage them to engage with us in the kitchen, because I want them to eat .. that's what I'm here for. When I first set up the menus I asked them for suggestions, and they came up with the idea for a Subway-style salad bar which we have now. For Christmas dinner, we did chocolate cheesecake or chocolate fudge cake for dessert, because Christmas pudding is not popular.

I don't care if they come and tell my food is rubbish, because at least they're engaging. That's how I get my feedback - and there's nothing more honest than a child when it comes to food!

Relax the child

"One of the pupils likes to read a book in the hall, and if I have five minutes I'll come out and read. It relaxes him and helps him eat. Others come up and have conversations about their special interests or all sorts of random things, not food-related at all. It all plays a part. I'm really grateful that I'm not just stuck behind the counter but feel like part of the team."

Prepare them for special events

"We've been talking about Christmas dinner with pupils, the menu was put up and sent home in advance. There's planning, there's discussions, and they've made suggestions. Last year was our first Christmas dinner and it was amazing, they handed it so well. It was lovely to see so many of them getting together in the hall - it felt like we'd achieved something."

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