For the first time ever, all secondary school children are to learn about food and cookery, as part of the new National Curriculum.
The Government has accepted recommendations from Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, the restaurateurs leading the School Food Plan, which aim to improve the diets of the nation’s school children.
Previously only primary schools had to give basic lessons about food preparation and hygiene, as part of the Design and Technology (D&T) curriculum. In secondary schools, it was merely a D&T option (together with textiles). There was no requirement to teach pupils about good nutrition or practical cookery in D&T.
From 2014, the requirements for both primary schools and secondary schools will be strengthened, so that:
Learning about food will be compulsory for every pupil up to the age of 14. The curriculum aims to ensure that, instead of baking out cup cakes and designing pizza boxes, cookery lessons will include a wide, imaginative range of savoury, healthy foods.
As part of their broader plan, Dimbleby and Vincent will be publishing a guide as to how primary schools without teaching kitchens can achieve these aims, and a plan to put teaching kitchens into the few remaining secondary schools that don’t have them.
Henry Dimbleby said:
I am delighted that the Department for Education has listened to us and the many others who were calling for cooking to get such a strong emphasis in the new National Curriculum. Obesity and diet-related illnesses are major issues facing this country – as big a challenge in their way as poor education.
We have simply carried the baton the last few metres taking on the great work that has been done by the Children’s Food Trust, Food For Life, School Food Matters, Jamie Oliver and many, many others both supporting schools and working in them.
Our work on the curriculum is just a small part of our overall School Food Plan, which we hope will radically improve what is eaten in schools and how food is woven into school life.
John Vincent said:
We have been adamant that knowing how to cook should be an entitlement for every child in school. And we've been equally determined that the curriculum ensures kids can cook a wholesome range of savoury main meals that they will enjoy, and which will improve their lives and those of their children in the future.
We promised a School Food Plan based on action and on quick wins. This big step forward will show people that we are fulfilling that promise. There's a lot more to come.
Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent will present their full action plan – intended to accelerate improvement in school food and determine the role of food more broadly in schools – later this year.