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Chefs' special engages young

The popular television programme Ready, Steady, Cook provided the format for the project that has qualified John Paul Academy in Glasgow for the finals of the SSLA Good Practice Awards.

The idea germinated at a meeting between learning support staff at the school and Careers Scotland's enterprise in education adviser, Delia Dixon.

The aim was to target core skills such as numeracy, team working and communication in a context that engaged the youngsters. The decision to have teams prepare European, Indian and Chinese meals stemmed from the school's multicultural population.

Then they had to interest chefs expert in each type of cuisine.

"The Indian chef took time out from running his own business," says Ms Dixon. "The Chinese chef came on his day off. The only problem was the European chef, who pulled out two days before the event, but we managed to get one at the last minute from the Hilton.

"All the chefs were young, related well to the kids and didn't just order them around or make them watch."

Anton Bonar, who is now in S3, confesses he felt under pressure the day he took part in the project. "Sure I've done a bit of cooking, but never against the clock or in front of a big audience," he says.

The project was part of a social inclusion strategy, says headteacher Mary Weeple.

"We have been getting a lot of external agencies involved and have been looking at kids who are disengaged, who need help with their social skills and with their core educational skills," she says.

"When the idea for this event was suggested we decided to widen it because one of the features of social inclusion is to aim for a variety of children and skills.

"We will organise similar events in the future because it was such a huge success."

For young Anton the pressure paid off. Not only did his team win a close-run contest, he has since decided he wants to be a chef when he leaves school.

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