The majority of teachers (88%) rate food, cooking and nutrition education in the UK as poor or just adequate.
The biggest concern revealed in the survey by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) was the length of lessons (54%).
Cooking and nutrition will be a compulsory part of the curriculum from September this year, but the majority of teachers surveyed indicated that it will have little impact on teaching provision. More than 80% of teachers surveyed in the BNF research believed the move will not change the time available for food and cooking lessons; 87% said there would be no change in lesson length; 86% believed there would be no change in technician support in cooking and nutrition lessons; and 85% expected no change in teaching resource provision when the curriculum changes come in.
Another survey by the BNF found that 85% of school children of all ages enjoyed cooking; 93% believed it was important to learn how to cook; and 84% of under 14-year-olds would like to cook more. However, 12% of five to eight-year-olds never cooked at home and a quarter of the same aged children said they never cooked at school.
In primary schools, 9% of children said they cooked at school once a week; 6% once a month; and 56% ‘sometimes’. In secondary school 39% of 11 to 14-year-olds and 28% of 14 to 16-year-olds surveyed cooked at school once a week with other age groups cooking once a month or ‘sometimes’.
Nutrition education should be a priority
Roy Ballam, education programme manager at BNF, said: “Our research among teachers tells us that 44% of all schools surveyed have an allocation of less than 18 hours each year or six hours each term, for both theory and practical lessons in food, nutrition and cooking. We believe that there should be more time made available, including making lessons longer, to support pupil wellbeing, the development of their food skills and application of healthy eating in real life contexts.
"We also believe it is essential to raise children’s awareness of issues such as food security and sustainable farming which are set to have an impact on this next generation. Schools, particularly those in England, can now seize the opportunity to embrace enhanced food education activities – helping to realise these important aspirations through curricula change.”
“It is really positive to see that nearly a fifth of the 14 to 16-year-olds (19%) and 13% of the 11 to 14-year-olds we surveyed say that they cook at home every day, while a further 31% in each of these age groups cook at home once a week. This may suggest that they are becoming more independent in their cooking and eating behaviour, and preparing for life away from home. We fully support children learning to cook, apply healthy eating and understand where their food is from.”