Cookery has positive effect on pupils' 'thinking and caring'

Michelin-star winner Tom Aikens says there are multiple benefits to cookery lessons, but new poll shows most pupils don't see them leading to a career

Tes Reporter


Learning to cook can have a positive physical and mental effect on schoolchildren, a top chef has said.

Michelin star-winning Tom Aikens explained that being taught the skills necessary to work in a kitchen brought multiple benefits to pupils.

His comments came as a poll by Opinium for suggested that the majority of young people are writing off a career in the hospitality industry, leading to a shortage of young talent.

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Almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) of secondary pupils have not received any information from their school about a career in hospitality, the research indicates.

Mr Aikens, who founded the eponymous Tom Aikens restaurant, as well as a chain of Tom’s Kitchen restaurants, said that he thought cooking “helps kids physically and mentally, in terms of looking at things".

He added: "When you look at cooking, it also helps them use their initiative as well, because you need a very practical approach to cooking.

"It really helps to develop children across all aspects – thinking, caring, and the attention – which I know is a difficult thing, especially when I am talking as a father."

The survey of 2,518 respondents included an even breakdown of children in Years 1-6, secondary school pupils, recent school leavers, parents of school-age children and parents of recent school leavers.

It indicates that a lack of information on potential career opportunities in the hospitality industry has led to 48 per cent of recent leavers viewing the job as a temporary role.

More than two in five (44 per cent) of primary pupils and nearly one in five (17 per cent) of secondary students say that food-related subjects are not available to them.

This is despite 82 per cent and 62 per cent of primary and secondary students respectively saying they would take up a food-related subject if it was made available to them.

The research also suggests that only one in four (24 per cent) parents of school-aged children would encourage their child to pursue a career in hospitality, despite the majority (83 per cent) saying it is important that children study food-related subjects at school.

Mr Aikens said: "Hospitality is an exciting, vivacious industry that has meant I am practising my passion every day, surrounded by incredibly creative colleagues.

"I know at my restaurants I am constantly looking for the next stars in the industry, and struggling to find the skill set we need due to the drop of new talent emerging from the education system – despite the work done by the industry to attract entry-level talent."

Neil Pattison, director, added: "The strong interest that young people have in learning about food, cooking and nutrition, is a fantastic opportunity for the industry, and it's vital that they are engaged at the earliest age."

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