Jamie's a pukka teacher, says head of his alma mater

23rd May 2014 at 01:00
Record-breaking cookery lesson impresses the professionals

He is famous for his best-selling cookbooks and crusade to improve school food, but if he ever experiences a change of heart, Jamie Oliver always has a future as a teacher.

That was the verdict of Gordon Farquhar, the headteacher of Oliver's old school in Essex, after his pupils joined hundreds of thousands of others around the world in a record-breaking cookery lesson streamed live on TES Connect. The class on how to make a rainbow wrap - a tortilla stuffed with beetroot, cabbage and pear, covered with a yoghurt dressing - was part of Oliver's Food Revolution Day.

Mr Farquhar, head of Newport Free Grammar School, which Oliver attended in the 1980s, said that the former student had the makings of an excellent teacher.

"I was really impressed with the lesson," he said. "The thing that struck me was that he did everything he could to have an educational element in it. It had quite a nice balance between the educational element - talking about the food - and the practical element.

"It was a really well-constructed lesson, well thought out and engaging, which is very difficult to do when you're working across key stages from primary to secondary."

Mr Farquhar spoke in support of Oliver's healthy eating campaigns and said that schools had a "moral imperative" to encourage children to eat well.

"School is not just about educating young people in terms of qualifications but making sure young people are prepared to go on to the next phase in their life, whether it is as an international television chef or running the garage down the road," he said. "Having basic cooking skills is really important."

Hundreds of thousands of students from nearly 10,000 schools in countries including Scotland, Australia, South Africa and the US took part in the live lesson.

Oliver urged the schools to use it as a platform to go on and do more. "I really feel like the door I've been pushing for eight years is now slowly starting to open, not just in the UK but across the world," he told TESS. "Here in the UK, it's so important that we keep this momentum going.

"So, if you're a school which took part in the lesson last Friday, first of all thank you. But second of all, I hope it inspires you to really get behind cooking classes and make them as good as they can be."

He added: "The number of people involved and supporting Food Revolution Day suggests that all governments - UK and internationally - need to urgently wake up to the crisis of obesity and diet-related disease. I would love political parties to make election pledges in their manifestos so that we could look forward to some strategic, coordinated, cross-department policies to get Britain healthier."

Following in the footsteps of the live lesson was TES Connect's Food Education Week. The event comes to a close today, but the blogs and resources on how to cook and eat healthily will continue to be available on the website (see panel, left).

Earlier this week the World Health Organisation's annual assembly opened in Geneva with a warning from its director-general Margaret Chan that she was deeply concerned about the growing problem of childhood obesity.

"Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death," Dr Chan said. "We see no good evidence that the prevalence of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases is receding anywhere.

"Highly processed foods and beverages loaded with sugar are ubiquitous, convenient and cheap."

She added that a high-level commission on ending childhood obesity was being formed and would report early next year.

As well as the live lesson, Food Revolution Day encompassed more than 4,000 other events in 116 countries. Supporters included comedian and broadcaster Stephen Fry, Hollywood actor Russell Crowe and Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, who tweeted: "I'm supporting Food Revolution Day because, like @jamieoliver, I believe food education and cooking skills can help save lives."

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