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Throw out half-baked ideas

The spectre of future generations rendered un-able to cook or appreciate good food is beginning to haunt the nation's educationists.

The ascendancy of food technology over home economics has led commentators to fear that we have produced children able to design a pizza box, but with no idea of what makes a good pizza to go inside it.

In a current series of forums run by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority into how the curriculum is working, questions have been raised about children's entitlements: learning how to cook; understanding basic nutrition; and health and safety. With a dramatic rise in outbreaks of salmonella, increased risks from eating processed foods and the concern of David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, that school children get "chips with everything", the nation seems to be going through a period of culinary angst.

Few would want a return to the bad old days of domestic science when children unable to produce that perfect shortcrust pastry were made to feel vastly inferior, but the demise of hands-on experience of cooking is increasingly regarded as cause for concern.

Prue Leith, restaurateur and chairman of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) has recently called for "real cooking" to be introduced in schools from the age of five. Children, she believes, would benefit from being able to cook from an early age, they would learn to eat healthily, shop economically, learn about physics, maths and chemistry through cookery lessons, and enjoy school more.

In answer to these concerns SCAA has introduced a pilot scheme called "Chefs in Schools". Working with organisations such as the Get Cooking Campaign, the National Food Alliance and the Academie Culinaire de France, SCAA has encouraged projects whereby chefs and restaurateurs work with schoolchildren.

Anne Waldon, a consultant who is managing the project says, "By bringing food experts into schools from outside, even for a one-off event, we hope to give children hands-on experience which will encourage them to appreciate what good food is all about."

SCAA aims to produce a "Chefs in Schools" guide for teachers, funding the scheme through sponsorship.

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