For the first time ever, practical cookery lessons are compulsory in primary schools. We explain what your budding Master Chef might learn.
From September 2014, primary school children should of been learning about food, cooking and nutrition under the national curriculum. It’s the first time that the subject has ever been compulsory in UK schools, and is a response to the School Food Plan (SFP): a 2013 document put together by a panel of experts, including restaurateurs, nutrition specialists, teachers and school cooks, aimed at improving the quality of both food education and the food served in schools. The SFP recommended that food education should be mandatory for all children in Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, a proposal that the Government adopted in its new curriculum
Why food education matters
Learning about food, how to prepare it and the principles of a healthy diet is important for every child. Every year, the NHS spends £10billion treating people with diet-related illnesses, from obesity to diabetes to heart disease. Almost 20 per cent of children are obese by the time they leave primary school, and families on lower incomes tend to be the most disadvantaged in terms of their culinary knowledge and skills.
Cooking and nutrition falls within the design and technology curriculum. The new curriculum aims to teach children how to cook, with an emphasis on savoury dishes, and how to apply the principles of healthy eating and good nutrition. It recognises that cooking is an important life skill that will help children to feed themselves and others healthy and affordable food, now and in the future, potentially halting – and even reversing – the growth of diet-related illnesses.
Cooking and nutrition in Key Stage 1
In Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2), children will be taught:
• To use the basic principles of a healthy and varied diet to prepare dishes
• To understand where food comes from
Cooking and nutrition in Key Stage 2
In Key Stage 2 (Years 3, 4, 5 and 6), children will learn:
• To understand and apply the principles of a healthy and varied diet
• To prepare and cook a variety of predominantly savoury dishes using a range of cooking techniques
• To understand seasonality and know where and how a variety of ingredients are grown, reared, caught and processed
Classroom cooking equipment
Currently, only 25 per cent of primary schools have teaching kitchens, which may mean that our children's cooking and nutrition lessons could be limited by the facilities available. However, Mexa Thermal have developed a Mobile Cook Station suitable for teaching primary school children while still putting safety first. The Mobile Cook Station complies with the European British Standard EN 60335-2-6 with a cool touch full size oven and a 2 zone induction hob. The Mobile Cook Station will fit through any doorway and will plug into a UK standard 13 amp socket, so it's ideal for teaching children within their own classroom.
Cooking and nutrition in practice
The national curriculum doesn’t give specific guidance about how it should teach cooking and nutrition, so it’s up to individual schools to decide how to deliver their lessons. A number of organisations, including the Children’s Food Trust, Chefs Adopt a School and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, are helping by putting together programmes of study that schools may choose to follow.
Primary school children may learn about cooking and nutrition through activities such as:
• Preparing and cooking a variety of dishes, including hot and cold meals, desserts, packed lunches, salads, etc.
• Using a variety of cooking equipment: scales, knives, utensils, etc.
• Growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables
• Writing meal plans and shopping lists
• Taste-testing different foods
• Learning about food hygiene and safety, including getting their food preparation area ready, and clearing up afterwards
• Learning to read and understand food labels
• Learning about farming and agriculture
• Learning about nutritional principles such as a balanced diet, five-a-day etc.
The Children’s Food Trust recommends that children spend at least 24 hours in each Key Stage studying cooking and nutrition, with most of that time focused on practical cookery. It’s also recommended that practical lessons are delivered in groups of no more than 18 children.
Pupils to make “informed choices about healthy eating”, says Ofsted in new inspection framework
In a watershed moment for school food, Ofsted has formally included healthy eating and knowledge of how to eat healthily in its Common Inspection Framework. Mexa Thermal welcomes the commitment to children’s health it will bring about and reiterates its on going support for schools which can help with Ofsted inspections.
Head teachers and caterers are already working hard to make sure their students eat well and learn about food – new school food standards were introduced in January of this year, and practical cookery has been made compulsory in the national curriculum since September 2014. Now Ofsted has gone further in its announcement that from September 2015, the ability of pupils to “make informed choices about healthy eating” will form part of a judgment under personal development, behaviour and welfare.
This announcement follows a letter sent to the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food in February, in which Ofsted highlighted that they would be placing a renewed emphasis on school food, adding that “inspectors will look for evidence of a culture or ethos of exercise and healthy eating throughout the entire inspection visit, in classrooms as well as in the school canteen.”
“A culture” of “healthy eating” goes beyond the food on the plate. Head teachers may be expected to explain how they monitor and evaluate food education, and asked whether students and parents are consulted in the development of menus. Inspectors may assess the atmosphere and culture of the dining space, and may ask whether the school governor responsible for healthy eating can provide evidence of compliance with the school food standards.