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From the Archive - 29.04.1984

Healthy food gets a raw deal

Changes in examination policy on home economics could end the present situation where children are actually getting lower marks for trying to cook healthier food.

This was highlighted this week by the Health Education Council, whose research officer Dr John Brown has written to GCE and CSE boards asking for changes. In his letter, Dr Brown quotes examples of marking instructions that give higher points to children making a main course and a sweet, fatty pudding than to those making a savoury starter and main course. Partial replacement of meat with legumes is not generally allowed for. If a green salad is served instead of vegetables, pupils may be given only four marks instead of eight, and then only if a dressing is served.

This is according to the Associated Examining Board instructions, which do, however, add that candidates who prepare a range of vegetables for a salad and make mayonnaise should be given credit.

In a practical examination, a sponge flan would get six marks rather than the 10 awarded if the flan was piped with cream, Dr Brown added.

"These practices are outdated and less than desirable," he said. "I am very concerned that home economics, particularly in the practical side of the subject, should include sound, nutritional practice. This means not only teaching about varied diets, but pointing out that too much of things like fat and sugar can jeopardise long-term health."

Mrs P.A. Curtis, home economics adviser for Berkshire and a leading campaigner for change, said that some teachers had found it exceedingly difficult to break with tradition, feeling that salads or wholemeal foods did not lead to such attractive results. They also felt constrained by exam boards.

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