'To strive for excellence in learning and all that we do’
At Great Dunmow Primary School, we believe that learning to cook is an important life skill and something that all children should be able to do. Although cooking is part of the Design and Technology (DT) curriculum, we feel it is important to offer more than the curriculum states in order for children to learn and develop their skills as much as possible, allowing them to leave school being able to prepare a variety of food at home, understand about where food comes from, and the importance of healthy eating, including thinking about how different food groups affect our bodies.
We use cooking to engage children and create learning opportunities that would not normally be available to them, with the ultimate aim being to teach children how to safely and independently create healthy food from scratch. Due to the nature of the small group sessions, it also helps to build confidence and self-esteem and creates opportunities for children to learn in a fun and more informal way.
Our curriculum drivers are paramount to our cookery planning, and much of the curriculum we have created is driven by these key words. The curriculum has been created to ensure children are learning things that are relevant to them and their learning, it helps them to become independent in their learning and in the future, it is memorable due to the fun and engaging nature of the sessions, we are able to teach them about a diverse range of cultures and how different food is grown in different climates due to our cross-curriculum approach, and, finally, children are able to use an investigative approach, particularly for units which have been linked to science and maths, but also in terms of the ‘Eatwell Guide’ where children have to develop a recipe based in the food groups. Each term, the children’s skills will be developed, being challenged to remember the learning from previous sessions in order to fully embed and deepen their knowledge and understanding.
Alongside the kitchen, we have an allotment in our garden area where our cookery teacher grows food that the children will use in their cooking. With careful planning, children are able to plant seeds and nurture the plants before harvesting them to use in their recipes. This helps to embed the concept of seasonal foods and the idea of farm to fork. Gardening and cookery clubs are also offered to all pupils as a way to excite the children and give them an opportunity to learn additional skills, such as building bug huts.
All children are given an opportunity to cook in small groups (between 6-8 children) every half term from EYFS through to Year 6. This means that over the course of an academic year, each child in the school will have cooked six times with our specialist cookery teacher.
The children are exposed to the risks in the kitchen and careful training and risk assessments are carried out to ensure the children can work safely with real utensils and kitchen equipment. All dietary needs are catered for during these sessions to ensure all children feel included, however, dietary needs are also used as a focus when working with the ‘Eatwell Guide’ (and the food groups) to educate the children about following a healthy diet when there are things such as health needs, moral or religious reasons to consider.
Our cookery teacher liaises with the DT lead to ensure the curriculum requirements are covered and then uses ‘Food Teaching in Primary Schools’ and ‘Core Competencies for Children aged 5-16 years’ to focus on a detailed progression of skills, building from the basics such as sieving and pouring, all the way up to college level knife skills. Teachers are fully involved in the planning process to ensure that any changes in their planning are reflected in the cooking lessons.
In order to make the learning relevant to the children, the outcomes for each session are based around their topics and what they would be learning in class. This cross-curriculum approach encourages children to make solid links with their learning, and, due to the small group situation, it allows them to ask and answer more questions, to understand more and therefore remember more. The cross-curriculum links are made with a wide variety of lessons: including, Science, RE, History, PSHE, and Geography. Wherever a link can be made, it is made, for example with maths in terms of weighing and measuring, adjusting recipes and using knowledge of the four number operations to find amounts.
Once the food is cooked or completed, the children are encouraged to evaluate their work in the same way they would their DT work. This further supports them when connecting what they do in the kitchen to what they are learning in class.
The children’s kitchen is also used to supplement the individualised curriculums of some children with a high level of special education needs whereby they have weekly sessions to work on their joint attention skills, tolerance to different sensory textures and following clear routines consistently. Children with speech, language and communication difficulties benefit from additional sessions in the kitchen where they can focus on various skills such as: developing their vocabulary along with their receptive and expressive language, developing their social and emotional skills, independence and turn taking. It can also help to build confidence and help them to work collaboratively.
We feel incredibly lucky to be able to offer the children such a valuable life skill, which not only gives them a love of cooking and a secure understanding of healthy eating, but it helps to develop them emotionally and socially too, resulting in confident, well-rounded individuals who can independently prepare and cook food. By exposing the children to a variety of different foods that they might not be familiar with, we hope to develop their palates and give them the confidence in the future to try new things.
Mrs M. Casey – Cookery Lead