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Rhodes to learning

Yolanda Brooks reports on a tasty idea for the curriculum

As design and technology supporters lobby to keep the subject's compulsory status on the national curriculum, celebrity chef and restauranteur Gary Rhodes puts forward the case for cooking.

He says that teaching students culinary skills will not only allow them to develop lifelong skills, create more discerning consumers and improve the general standard of catering in the UK, it will help students relieve some of the many stresses they now face in school.

"Children have a long day then go home and do homework," he says. "If we can just take one hour a week out of the curriculum and release their minds and let them relax, then they can express themselves in another form and get inspiration from that. But this is not just about making a few rock cakes for grandma. We can be much more inspirational than that," he says.

For Rhodes, it was cooking at home rather than school that inspired his career. "Cooking at school for me was non-existent," he says.

While Rhodes had to rely on catering college to get ahead, he feels that today's generation should be given more encouragement at an earlier age. And his regular visits to schools have convinced him that there really is an untapped desire to learn more about food and what to do with it.

"I recently went into an all-boys school and I had a class of 20 eight to 11-year-olds and when I walked in they all had glum faces. They said: 'We don't want to do this.' But when we started cooking, the response was just incredible.

"Parents were also very positive and I've heard that some of the boys have started cooking at home. You get a lot of children who will not eat with the rest of the family around the table and I think if we can introduce children into the kitchen it will create that family spirit."

Dreams of domestic harmony may be a short-term aim, but Rhodes believes the effects of one hour a week will be felt for years to come.

"In the long term, this one hour a week will help the catering industry," he says. "What's more, after cooking for three or four years at school, children are not going to accept eating cheap second-rate nonsense."

Gary Rhodes has been awarded four separate Michelin stars for his UK restaurants. TV series include Rhodes Around Britain, Masterchef and Roald Dahl's Revolting RecipesDetails on the future of design and technology in secondary schools can be found in chapter three of the Department for Education and Skills Green Paper 14-19 Extending Opportunities, Raising Standards which can be viewed online at www.dfes.gov.uk14-19greenpaper

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