Ruth Kitchener, Head of Food Technology at Sackville School, shares her secrets for encouraging pupils to develop their cookery skills

At what age do children start to learn how to cook at Sackville School?

Here all students study Food Technology from the age of 11 and throughout Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9), and then have the option to continue the subject at GCSE and A Level. The aim is that all students leave school with the skills and ability to cook a range of dishes and have a solid foundation in cooking, food, and nutrition. We also offer a cookery activities club every Friday afternoon in Key Stage 3 alongside class competitions – such as the hotly contested Bake Off in Year 9 – and the opportunity to compete at a national level in the Springboard Futurechef competition.

Why is it important that they should learn to cook themselves?

Cooking is an essential life skill. In a world where we increasingly rely on processed foods, it’s no longer the norm for cooking skills to be passed down through the generations and many schools no longer offer practical food lessons. As a result, we are becoming more distant from the origins of our food, and obesity and its associated health problems are increasingly concerning issues. At the Sackville School Food Technology Department, the quote commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’ is integral to our way of teaching: most lessons in Key Stage 3 are practical, and even the most reluctant cooks are soon happy to get stuck in.

What range of dishes do you create?

In Key Stage 3, students at Sackville School prepare and cook a wide variety of food dishes, with the emphasis being on developing skills and knowledge. These range from pizza and breakfast muffins in Year 7, to sizzling chicken stir fry and homemade pasta in Year 8, to toad-in-the-hole and Chinese spring rolls in Year 9, as well as their own choice of international savoury dish, with recent options including food from Burma, Japan, and the Philippines. All lessons are taught by a subject specialist in addition to having links with Babcock International, who invite a professional chef to teach students specialist knowledge and skills in lessons.Â

How do you make them aware of the importance of a balanced diet and good nutrition?

Healthy eating and nutrition are fundamental parts of Food Technology teaching at Sackville School. In Year 7, students learn the nutrients kinaesthetically through activities including shielding themselves with woks to demonstrate the function of fat protecting the organs, while at A Level they make polypeptide chains from paper chains to develop their knowledge of protein structure.

Can they choose to continue their studies into GCSE & A Level?

Students are able to choose Food Technology at GCSE and A Level and we have had students go on to train as professional chefs at Westminster College whose alumni include Jamie Oliver. Students have recently undertaken work experience placements at Rosemary Shrager’s Patisserie School and the restaurant at Darenth Valley Golf Club; it is always a pleasure to see our students at work in a professional kitchen putting the skills they have learnt in school into practice.

Expert caterer Nicky Stewart Blacker from Simply Foodies discusses the extremely popular Chef Club at Marlborough House School that she has run for the past three years

At what age do children start to learn how to cook at Marlborough House?

Here, cookery forms part of the curriculum from Nursery and is available as a very popular extra-curricular club option from the age of 11 upwards.

Why is it important that they should learn to cook themselves?

Cookery is a life skill – we should all know how to cook! At this age, the emphasis is on having fun in the kitchen and along with many savoury dishes, we also make the treats that everyone enjoys and which make the most reluctant cook want to engage. The aim of this course is to introduce the children to using a kitchen and giving them the confidence to go home and recreate the dishes and perhaps try others. In my experience if children cook something themselves, they very often want to eat it so this is a great way to get reluctant eaters to try new things.

What range of dishes do you create?

We make a wide range of food with the aim of covering some of the basic techniques, which then gives children the skills and courage to try other recipes. Our dishes range from a simple stuffed baked potato, to pizza, soups, desserts and the making and decorating of their own Christmas cakes. In the Spring term, the children cater for a cocktail party, making and serving canapés for 50 or so guests. Quite an achievement for such a short course!

How do you make them aware of the importance of a balanced diet and good nutrition?

I believe that the teaching of a balanced diet should be part of every family and reinforced at school. Every chef club session includes discussion of what we are making and the part it plays in a balanced diet. We also discuss other ingredient options available for a recipe. Even when we are making brownies, it is quite an eye opener for the children to see exactly how much sugar and butter go into them! It does make them stop and think.

Find out more about Sackville School at or call 01732 836401, and for Marlborough House School visit or call 01580 753555.

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