As I've said before, it is great that cookery is back on the school curriculum. Yesterday the UK Government's Education Department released the Subject Content for the new GCSE qualification to be taught in schools, and the bad news is they have dropped the word 'Cooking' from the course title. The new course is to be called 'Food preparation and nutrition'. The good news is that section C of the subject content is entitled 'Cooking and food preparation' and expects students to 'cook'. This will not please all those Food Technology teachers who cannot cook themselves and would prefer a subject content that focuses purely on food and nutrition (See Footnote). It was these teachers that lobbied for the removal of 'cooking' from the title of the course.  While the Government may have given-in to their wishes on the course title, they have retained many of the cooking skills which these teachers felt were too difficult - filleting chicken and fish, making choux pastry, roasting, braising and making sauces and pasta et.al. remain. So they will need to get their cooking skills up to scratch if they are to best serve their pupils. Any teacher training organisation that can respond to this skills need will be inundated with applicants from Food Technology teachers who cannot cook!

These days we get kids to learn about calculus, Pythagoras and rift valleys but how often do we use them in our daily adult lives? However, I hope that cooking in the new GCSE means 'cooking' and not just assembling pizzas made from packet mixes, baking cookies or making up rice crispy cakes. Kids also need to learn about 'food' - where it comes from, the seasons for food, which parts of the cow you can eat, why we need fresh vegetables and protein and carbohydrates etc. It should be taught in an enjoyable, lively and engaging way like other subjects. We need to learn about the products and ingredients that make up our meals. Did you know, for example, that if a chicken has dark red earlobes, it will lay brown eggs and if it has paler earlobes it will lay paler eggs. These facts can inspire children to learn more.

It is also very important to involve kids in preparing their own food. My wife recently announced to her class that they would be cooking a vegetable curry at which most of the class said they did not like vegetables and some said they did not like curry. But when the students were taken to the shops, encouraged to buy the ingredients, then prepared the curry and cooked it, they happily ate the curry and said how much they loved it!

If we can encourage a fascination for raw cooking ingredients among our youngsters and an interest in food then they could become passionate about cooking. By encouraging them to shop and cook, they will try new things and experiment in the kitchen, whether at home or at school. They will move away from read-meals, ready made pizzas, burgers and the like. Have they ever tasted a home-made burger made from scratch with raw ingredients? I guess not! They will then improve their diets and help in tackling kids' obesity. They can then pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm for food to their own children. Thankfully, sections A and B of the new GCSE Food preparation and nutrition subject content released yesterday focused on nutrition and food. The 'Food' content covers food provenance and food choice and expects kids to learn everything about food, from where it comes from to British and international cuisines. 'Food choice' covers balanced diets, cultural diversity and portion size and costs. Hurray!

So, it's great that cooking is back on the school curriculum and that the Government has raised the profile of food preparation and nutrition. However, unless teachers realise and deliver convincingly that there is much more to food than just cooking it, and that the raw ingredients are equally important, then they will only be addressing half the problem associated with the bad diets of young people today.

For more detail on the new GCSE subject content see:

My wife recently attended a teacher training course on this new GCSE, in Stroud in Gloucestershire - 60% of the teachers present did not know how to portion a chicken and 75% of the teachers,when asked to cook spinach, boiled a saucepan of hot water.


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