Tuesday 3 April 2012

Should cookery be on the national curriculum?

At a time when millions of pounds are being spent on public health campaigns in the 'fight against obesity' and Weight Watchers are rolling out programs for teenagers and kids, the government is looking to drop cookery classes in schools as part of a general review of the National Curriculum. Under the previous government, the Licence to Cook programme included 24 hours of practical cookery skills for all pupils aged 11-14 and included training for teachers and funding for kitchen equipment to be installed in schools.  Now the tide has turned and despite the growing obsession over child obesity the current government are looking to ditch cookery and focus on 'core subjects' like Mathematics and English instead.

In a recent survey of schoolchildren, most didn't know that burgers were made from cows and that fish fingers had anything to do with animals that live in the sea. How can we expect the future generations to make healthy food choices when they have no idea where the food comes from and how to prepare it? Surely cookery is one of the most 'core' subjects there is? The  best way to show children how to have a healthy, balanced relationship with food and by consequence a healthy, balanced weight is to focus on teaching all youngsters basic cookery skills so that by the time they leave school they know how to take a few, simple, fresh ingredients and turn them into a satisfying, nutritious meal.

Imagine schools with a basic kitchen in each classroom: children learning how to cut, measure, weigh and mix ingredients (lots of mathematics there) and finding out about where ingredients come from, what happens to them when they are cooked together, learning to read a recipe and even writing some of their own (lots of English, Biology and Chemistry too). Imagine a National Curriculum where each child leaves school with a good grounding in cookery. When you know how to make a basic soup, a stew, a stir fry, an omelette and a pudding you are pretty much set for life.  You can decide what tastes, textures and quantities you are hungry for, you can ensure you eat food you enjoy and take pride in your work. None of the above take any longer top make than heating up a ready meal or popping out for a takeaway and with a bit of planning, they can be much cheaper. 

I recently spent a couple of hours on a Sunday morning holding a cookery workshop for 20 kids aged 2 to 10 years. As part of a larger event on recycling and using scrap to create things I went for simple recipes based on leftover bread. We made an Italian recipe called Poor Man's Meatballs - delicious, golden, crunchy, cheesy bread balls - and an easy bread & butter pudding. The children had a great time and really got stuck in, even the very little ones. They all enjoyed devouring their home-made goodies and took away a little bit of cookery knowledge that I hope will stick with them for many years.

I hope the government review will realise just how important cookery is for children's health and wellbeing and make it part of the National Curriculum. In the meantime, get your kinds into the kitchen and have fun making Poor Man's Meatballs with them. Even a 2 year old  can enjoy squishing some bread and rolling it into balls. You will be teaching them valuable skills for the future.

If you'd like Audrey aka the Kitchen Fairy to come and cook with you and your children, get in touch and drop me an email audrey[at]beyondchocolate[dot]co[dot]uk

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