Urgent plea to help our children’s future

The growing scandal of the failure to provide children in the UK the opportunity to have regular schooling during lockdown, has appalled us. Their futures ought to be our major concern now. Many of them will not have set foot in an educational institution for just short of half a year and we owe them more than that!

As the founder of London’s most sustainable cookery school, a full time working teacher for over 55 years and 77 year old grandmother, I feel that I am honour bound to step in and make a fuss. I can no longer watch the news and do nothing about being able to help salvage something and also make a positive contribution to the future of our children.

kids in kitchen

At Cookery School we know that kids of primary age through to teens LOVE to learn how to cook. We believe that straightforward and necessary cooking skills are very easily transferable even digitally and I feel there is no reason why short and clear classes could not be offered across all television channels to allow quick and solid learning to children and young people.  This is an opportunity that we simply cannot afford to lose!

An initiative needs to be launched with utmost haste to take advantage of the remaining short time at our disposal. It needs input from government, media and anyone else with a vested interest in realising the importance of this opportunity.

In order not to penalise children affected by food insecurity we would appeal to supermarkets, farmers and charities to distribute excess food for the duration of the programme.

At Cookery School at Little Portland Street, we teach thousands of people each year how to become good home cooks. Cookery School is founded on best teaching practices but our style is light and always with a fun touch and aimed at engendering culinary confidence irrespective of age.

I propose the following initial draft solution for discussion:

• Providing a public information type of broadcast of three small 15 – 20  minute slots per day at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  These will be practical structured sessions based on the teaching that we do at Cookery School where we teach kids of all ages.  Learning HAS TO BE fun. We want kids to start seeing themselves as cooks and be enabled to do so. If they understand what they are doing, this will make them feel empowered to keep learning.

• Kids would start their day with breakfast that they have prepared for themselves. What has been prepared mid morning can be eaten for lunch and the mid afternoon slot food eaten for dinner.

• Ingredients and utensils need to be ones that are in most kitchens and as little washing up as possible needs to be generated.

• It would have to be made clear that for younger children cooking, an adult would have to be beside them to ensure their safety.

• Ideally participants would be encouraged to ‘cook-along’ as much as possible and finish off their cooking once a particular programme has ended. Involvement in the cooking process is so important as most kids want to eat what they have cooked.

• Programmes must be repeated so that as many pupils as possible can have access to them.

• Best of all would be to have at least one teen cooking with the teacher so that those cooking along at home could relate to the pupil on screen.

• Social media is essential so that pics and thoughts can be exchanged during the programme and a nationwide discussion started on what everyone is cooking.

• Cookery School at Little Portland Street teachers could be accompanied by a well known ‘face’ or celebrity or even a different ‘face’ per session – learning how to cook a particular recipe.  Famous faces do not necessarily make good teachers even if they are icons.

• We have already worked out a ‘curriculum’ based on 3 sessions a day for 5 days a week. To keep everyone engaged over a short period of time, I would suggest an intensive 3 week stint.

• With the rudiments within their grasp, the new cooks may be encouraged to experiment on their own. Hopefully at the end of the programme they will be cooking decently and will want to continue cooking.  It is all about taking the first steps and having the confidence to cook.

• Cooking programmes where kids compete do not encourage other kids to cook – they are simply seen as entertainment.

• My dream is that schools will use this as a springboard for encouraging further cookery classes even if as a recreational after school activity.

At present Cookery School at Little Portland Street kitchens are standing empty.  The BBC, Channel 4 and Al Jazeera have used them for filming over the years so the lighting and space is fine.  Our staff are currently not working because of social distancing, so we could start this project within days.

With only a couple of months left before schools reopen, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to put in place an initiative that is capable of changing the habits of a generation for the future. So many of the government coronavirus schemes have come to life very quickly and been very successful.  There is no reason why a national cooking scheme could not work equally well. We are in the position NOW of being able to provide children a valuable life skill and one they can pass this onto the next generation.

Many people will look back on this in years to come and thank the government and the media for what it has achieved in a positive way in a time filled with anxiety and confusion.

If there is any way in which you can help or pass this message onto someone that can, please can you send me an email to rosr@cookeryschool.co.uk.  There is an urgency to move forward with this as soon as possible.

Thanks so much for your help

Rosalind Rathouse