School children get cooking at the Community Kitchen

Thanks to funding from the Fonthill Foundation between January and July 2019, five local schools are bringing pupils to the Community Kitchen for cookery lessons.

‘When my Mum told me I was going to do cooking I didn’t realise it was going to be somewhere as amazing as this’ Pupil nurture group

This was the first thing one of the pupils from St Paul’s school said when she arrived for her six-week cookery course. Providing an opportunity for education outside the school classroom, the chance to learn from people other than your usual teacher and the experience of cooking in an inspiring space were all intended outcomes of the programme as well as the primary one of teaching children basic cookery skills.

‘I feel like a real chef because we’re doing this’ Pupil nurture group

The cookery classes are led by Anna, our cookery leader, with the support of 2 or 3 volunteers.  The classes are practical with the children completing a ‘record of learning’ marking off the key skills they have learnt each week. These include cutting (with a knife, with scissors, grating), using heat (baking, boiling and frying) and measurements (of dry goods and of liquids).

The sessions are about touching and working with raw ingredients, cracking eggs, kneading dough, chopping onions, not just compiling ready prepared food. Recipes include tortillas, flatbread, soup, pasta bakes and a popular option of chocolate and beetroot muffins.

There is also a section on being clean and safe in the kitchen and on tasting and trying foods. This includes fruit and veg but also covers sour or acidic tastes like vinegar or lemon juice to learn about flavours in cooking.  As one of the volunteers supporting the session said, ‘It’s great to see that every week the children become more confident learning to chop, bake and taste different foods’.

‘I can’t believe we made all of this food ourselves – I can’t wait to show my Mum’ Pupil Year 4

Children always take home something they have made along with all the recipes. We are working with local schools so that the children / staff can walk to and from the Kitchen and the sight of them at the end of a session heading off in their high-viz jackets clutching bags full of goodies they’ve made does make me smile.

‘As a learning mentor it has been great to spend time with some of the children outside the classroom setting and seeing them flourish’ School learning mentor

The Fonthill Foundation have allowed us to use the funding in a flexible way to tailor the offer to suit the different schools involved. Two of the schools have brought ‘nurture groups’, that is pupils who have additional needs – it may be that they are young carers, have experienced bereavement, are in foster care or have a learning difficulty.  One school chose a year group where there had been a lot of new pupils to help them bond, another is bringing their Year 5 pupils along with the teacher they will have next year so she can get to know them before they join her class.

‘Its about learning a life skill’ Cookery leader

Although the National Curriculum includes reference to children learning to cook, the reality for many schools with busy class timetables and/or without kitchen facilities is that this is often very limited. All the schools have said that this opportunity has really added to the education of the children involved and the school staff have noticed that it’s given children who might not be the top of the class academically the chance to shine.

Where the class size is larger than the capacity of the Kitchen (18 children) schools have brought half the class at a time.  This led to an unexpected bit of feedback from a teacher at St Bartholomew’s – he said he was able to give the half of the class that wasn’t at the Kitchen extra individual attention with their maths as it was a much smaller class. Cooking or maths, I know which I would rather be doing!

It has been great having the children in the Kitchen and who knows if a future winner of MasterChef has already come through our doors. However, maybe it is the Community Kitchen team that needs to be looking over their shoulder – as one pupil told a cookery leader ‘when I grow up I’m going to go to college and then I’m going to work here’.

The schools involved are:

  • Fairlight Primary
  • St Paul’s
  • St Bartholomew’s
  • Moulsecoomb Primary
  • Carlton Hill
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