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Adventurous appetite for learning;Food for life

Our top chefs and cookery writers have wide and varying views on the importance of food in education. But all agree on one basic point - there is an urgent need to give food and cooking their rightful place in schools, writes Martin Whittaker.

Michael Barry, the chef and television presenter, says: "It's not just a matter of teaching children theory. Cooking and food are practical things. If you can catch children's tastes and their interest and excitement, you'll keep them for life. There's a huge role for schools, but only if food is made a central part of the national curriculum."

The Academie Culinaire (UK), a trade association of top chefs and restaurateurs, runs an Adopt A School programme to promote food education. Projects manager Dervila O'Grady says: "There are a lot of people very interested in getting food on to the curriculum. There are a lot of teachers putting in time after school. But when it comes to getting auxiliary help, there are not many places to go."

Hilary Bull at Hornby County High School, Lancaster, has found ways around this. She cooks with pupils, invites top chefs to school and takes children to restaurants and hotel kitchens. They explore foreign cuisine and have skinned and gutted rabbits. Her commitment made her the BBC Good Food Awards Teacher of the Year 1997.

"We're very lucky in our school because we have a large proportion of our time given over to food technology," she says. "The children love it. They try everything. It's about bringing real life into the curriculum so that you're not just designing and making a pizza on a computer screen, which seems to happen a lot."

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