Cooking on the curriculum

The previous Labour government introduced compulsory cooking at Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds).

For a nation that has over the last 30 years lost the ability to cook, this was a great step forward in addressing the lack of an essential life skill and also therefore good eating habits.

There is no evidence anywhere that learning about healthy eating in a classroom actually makes any difference to what people eat – and why should it. The thought of sitting in a classroom learning about vitamins and minerals and fats is enough to make anyone yawn. Knowledge might be gained about healthy eating but cooking and creating transforms that knowledge into action.

Not knowing how to cook is a barrier to eating a healthy diet, so if we are serious about tackling our obesity crisis we need arm people with spatchulas and wooden spoons – and teach them how to use them.

Threat to cooking lessons

As with party politics, new governments sweep away the past government’s policy (even if it’s good) in favour of their own new policies. Expensive reviews of the curriculum were carried out under the Labour government, and here we are a couple of years later, with another curriculum review. This time though we may loose compulsory cooking for 11-14 year olds.

Michael Gove’s championing of academic subjects shows where his passion lies, but these subjects should not replace the teaching of what is an essential life skill.

A couple of years ago I worked with colleagues at City University on an evaluation of a scheme called Chef’s Adopt a School (CAAS). In the scheme Chefs went into primary schools where they taught children to prepare a basic dish. We found children who took part in the CAAS scheme had significantly higher confidence in their cooking skills and also ate more vegetables – both compared to children who had not taken part in the scheme. These differences were small but “significant” which means they weren’t down to chance.

The Children’s Food Campaign is working hard to keep cooking lessons on the curriculum. Please take action to ask your MP to sign an EDM calling on the government to keep cooking on the curriculum.

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