Cakes and pizza - not healthy food - are the rule

More pupils spend school cookery lessons learning how to boil pasta, bake cakes and make pizza than to prepare salad, soup or smoothies, writes Adi Bloom.

Gill Elliott, of Cambridge Assessment, surveyed 330 food technology and home economics teachers, to find out what skills key stage 3 pupils are taught in the classroom.

Despite increasing national emphasis on healthy eating, making biscuits and baking cakes are still regularly taught.

The most common lessons include making pizza, peeling and slicing vegetables and making hot puddings, scones and cakes.

By contrast, fewer than half the teachers regularly ask pupils to make soups or smoothies. Only a third teach pupils to prepare coleslaw or salad regularly.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that every pupil between 11 and 14 will be given cookery lessons by 2011. They will learn "how to make cheap, healthy dishes from simple, fresh ingredients" - including shepherd's pie, curries and bolognese sauces.

There is no meat among the 20 most frequently used ingredients. And more than half of teachers never teach pupils to steam or poach vegetables and fish.

"However, the context of school cookery lessons must be considered," Dr Elliott said. "Food produced must withstand storage, transport and often reheating, and steamed food is likely to suffer more under such conditions."

The most common ingredients used in the cookery classroom are still eggs, onions, pasta, cheese and tinned tomatoes.

The majority of teachers surveyed by Dr Elliott claim that the national curriculum under-emphasises practical cookery. Most believe it is possible to gain grade C or above in GCSE food technology or home economics without significant practical skills.

"Much will now depend upon whether the resources, such as staffing, are provided in schools," said Dr Elliott. "For those students where there is a lack of equipment or support within the home environment, will there ever be a long-term benefit from a single course of lessons?"

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