What’s Cooking?

IngredientsSchools secretary Ed Balls (crazy name, crazy guy) has announced that cookery will become compulsory in UK secondary schools. That will mean that a shortage of appropriately trained teachers will need to be bridged and presumably an appropriate curriculum approved.

The last time I worked in a secondary school the cookery department always seemed to just be teaching students how to make pizzas which on one occasion forced a school evacuation due to a major fire started by the cookery teacher.

Way back when I was a secondary school student prisoner cookery was called home economics and we equally endured woodwork and metalwork in the same quantities to P.E. in that all three were double period activities. Only P.E. remained compulsory in the final two years though I was able almost uniquely able to dodge most of those with art.

I luckily came away with good basic cooking skills , a comprehensive grounding in car maintenance and a thorough grasp of photography with maybe some passable English skills.

Not quite sure why that all took 11 years of my life though.

Photo by Jongjiet under this creative commons license
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3 thoughts on “What’s Cooking?

  1. It is another indication of how government deals with education in “fire-fighting mode”. They now suddenly decide that school children need to be taught cookery just as a few years ago they decided there was a shortage of maths teachers after they had closed a lot of teacher training courses. This led to a lot of people without proper maths qualifications becoming maths teachers after summary training. The current “initiative” will presumably lead to a lot of people who don’t know an endive from an artichoke becoming cookery teachers.

    Don’t forget to turn the gas off, Henry.
    Stuff(Em) Replied: Hi ST-They did the same thing with languages a while back. My impression when on the periphery of education as support was that teachers who specialised were not as employable (value for money) as those who were adequate generalists across a range of subjects but maybe that was just a management policy in the school I was in.

  2. I have rather fond memories of Domestic Science lessons. It was not pizzas back then. I remember learning how to skin fish and the like. We used to have to bring in a tupperware container to take home our cooking specimens and then my poor mother was expected to reheat it so we could have it for supper.

    I have no idea whether it was successful or not. The current drive is to combat obesity – my cooking experiences would def have been successful there since no-one ever ate what I prepared. I am not a good cook but I don’t think that is due to poor cookery instruction. It’s just a lack of latent talent.

    It is always a bit of a toss-up in my opinion, whether formalising something will help or not. Hopefully it will help raise awareness of food issues but equally it might turn some children off cooking if it becomes something they have to do. The best approach would seem to be that in France – where school dinners are proper meals, not only healthy but edible, where lunch-time is a time for enjoying the food properly, not stuffing it in (my sons get 15 mins to eat lunch, when we were in France they sat at a table for almost an hour in school!) My sons used to come home from the French school, full of what they had eaten and how weird it all was and begged me to produce similar offerings.

    When my daughter turned 11 she was expected to cook once a week. She started off simple – toast! But she stuck at it and within a year she was better than me. And now she is great. She is a calm and relaxed cook who produces things that are both edible and appealing to look at (I rarely manage either of those things). So the ideal is probably encouragement within the home, but obviously in a home where proper cooking does not take place, that is hard and maybe schools do have a role to play.

    But yeah – where are they going to find the teachers? It’s certainly not something you want to entrust to Dinner Ladies in the UK!
    Stuff(Em) Replied: Hi RB-Blimey, skinning fish. Can’t remember doing that. It was all bread, pies, macaroni cheese, apple crumble and cakes or maybe I just remember the ones enjoyed making.The trouble is that a lot of schools probably won’t have a large area devoted to cookery anymore and so have 3 years to somehow find the funding before it falls out of favour again. I guess this is another attempt to social engineer a healthier Britain but if schooling can’t always compete with what’s happening outside of school hours.

  3. The reason it took 11 years of your life is class size.

    Apparently they’re going to use Higher Level Teaching Assistants rather than teachers for those cookery lessons.

    The only thing I learned in ‘home ec’ at secondary school was how to treat a scald if you accidentally spill the water while draining potatoes…

    I’m all for teaching life skills, but I’d rather children came out of school being able to read and write than cook.

    As a girl, I wasn’t allowed to do CDT at school, just as the boys weren’t allowed to do cooking. I remember feeling the injustice of it at the time and now wish I’d done something about it.
    Stuff(Em) Replied: Hi Kirsty- I largely agree-I’d have preferred school make sure we got the basics right (we were up to our eyes in log tables before they realised almost none of us could do long division which was only realised when we sat our mocks) leaving specialisms and the advanced stuff to higher education.I sometimes think that education is asked to fill the void of life skills not passed on by parents (ooh controversial). I guess schools were different across the UK as I’m surprised to hear of your own experience at school -I felt I had a fairly androgynous schooling despite the gender inequalities in the world at the time so although the girls in motor mechanics (it was an optional subject) were a small percentage compared to the boys the option was available though woodwork, metalwork and home economics were each compulsory and entirely mixed gender.I was also , looking back, at school during the fairly trendy ‘free creative thinking’ era in some state schools and largely taught by what my (minority) right wing minority English teacher called ‘trendy lefties’.

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