George Heriot’s School puts pleasure at the heart of food education
15th September 2019
An Edinburgh school has taken up the challenge of developing pupils’ cookery skills and food knowledge with a hands-on course that puts pleasure at the heart of learning. Lesley Franklin, Principal of George Heriot’s School, is running a year-long programme for final year pupils, which has them cooking together, talking about food issues and enjoying each other’s company over lunch.
The Oxford Cultural Collective will be tracking the pupils’ progress and at the end of the school year will help them stage a celebratory dinner for around 100 guests, in support of the school’s favoured charities.
In partnership with EP Business in Hospitality, OCC will explore whether George Heriot’s approach provides a model for food education that could be adopted in other schools. By placing more emphasis on the enjoyment of cooking and eating together, can food education play a more central role in preparing young people for their futures?
Lesley Franklin shares her objectives.
What are you hoping your students will get from their participation in your food and cookery programme?
We have a wide range of skills in the group, from never having cooked at all, to a few who cook quite frequently. So I am hoping that all will leave the course armed with enough knowledge to make themselves good food when they leave home. Also, very importantly, I want them to have fun and enjoy being in the kitchen. Food is bringing together a group who are not necessarily friends and enabling them to talk, laugh and learn.
As well as equipping students with practical skills, what food issues will you be exploring?
Heriot’s pupils are very interested in the environment and sustainability so we will be exploring local produce as time goes on. Also, without patronising them, I want to explore food and wellbeing – i.e. the importance of a balanced diet.
The ability to cook is such an important life skill. Generally, are schools able to prioritise cookery within the curriculum?
It is difficult for schools to prioritise cookery within the curriculum because of the pressure to complete all exam courses thoroughly. It is also an expensive department to run, not only because of the ingredients, but because of the need for support within the classes and preparation for the classes. Smaller issues such as laundry and cleaning also come into play. Timetabling can be an issue as whole class groups cannot attend cooking at once. At Heriot’s, we have tackled these issues by putting cooking in to the Junior School timetable, in small groups, and by offering this S6 interest class.
This is a new activity for you, as well as for your students. How did you decide what skills and recipes would be your focus?
I am still deciding! Until I saw the skill levels, it was hard to decide. Some of the pupils were amazed that they managed to make and then sit down to eat a delicious meal in a relatively short space of time! All were successful in creating a dish and felt proud of themselves!