News Children's Food Campaign

Ten top chefs tell Government to keep kids cooking

Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes, Ainsley Harriott and others have signed a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove urging him to keep practical cooking lessons in secondary schools.

Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Ainsley Harriott are among a host of top chefs and food lovers who have signed a letter sent today to Education Secretary Michael Gove urging him to keep practical cooking lessons on the curriculum for all secondary school pupils.

The letter expresses concerns that the review of the National Curriculum announced by the Department for Education may result in children leaving school without even the basic skills to prepare healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Arthur Potts Dawson, Executive Head Chef of the Peoples Kitchen said:

“Being able to cook enables people to live healthy lives. It is straightforward common sense that the government should ensure that every child continues to be taught to cook during their school career. It would be ridiculous to take away cooking lessons when we are in the midst of a massive obesity crisis.”

Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator Jackie Schneider said:

“We want children to make informed, healthy choices about their diet - teaching them how to cook allows them to do just that. We are the fattest nation in Europe – how much worse does it have to get? Rather than nagging children about their diet, teaching them practical cooking skills is one of the most effective ways to drive behaviour change which the government says it is keen to see.”


For further information and interviews, please contact Jackie Schneider on 0203 5596 777 mob 07795 213425 or

Notes to editors

1) The Children's Food Campaign wants to improve children's health and well-being through better food - and food teaching - in schools, and protecting children from junk food marketing. We are supported by over 150 national organisations. The Children's Food Campaign is coordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming and funded by the British Heart Foundation. For more information, see  

2) The letter has been signed by chefs Tom Aikens, Ainsley Harriott, Paul Merrett, Thomasina Miers, Jamie Oliver MBE, Arthur Potts Dawson, Gary Rhodes OBE, Nico Rilla, Oliver Rowe and Valentine Warner. It has also been signed by Catherine Gazzoli, Chief Executive of Slow Food UK, and Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, Chief Executive of the Academy of Culinary Arts. Top chefs Raymond Blanc OBE and Allegra McEvedy MBE are also supporting the campaign.

3) A review of the National Curriculum in England was announced in January 2011.  For more information see

4) The Children’s Food Campaign is calling for practical cooking lessons to be kept on the secondary curriculum.  For more information, see

5) Research shows that practical cooking skills are vital to ensure understanding of what constitutes a healthy life, and important to ensure that individuals are able to exercise control over their diet and food intake, whether by cooking and preparing their own food or by understanding the processes that go into ready prepared foods.

6) Figures from the National Child Measurement Programme for the school year 2009/10 show that the proportion of children in England who are overweight or obese continues to rise.  The number of children who are overweight or obese by the time they reach Year 6 (age 10/11) has reached 33.4%, an increase of 0.8% on the previous year.  For more information see

7) The UK is now the fattest nation in Europe.  For more information, see

8) The letter sent to Michael Gove reads as follows:

Dear Mr Gove,
Cooking skills empower people and allow them to make informed choices about their diet. It will come as no surprise to you to learn that we believe that all pupils should be given the opportunity to learn cooking skills at school.
We are therefore alarmed that your Department's curriculum review may lead to secondary schools no longer teaching all pupils to cook at Key Stage 3. Money has already been spent training staff and preparing classrooms so it makes sense to continue.
We strongly urge the Government to retain the current requirement that all Key Stage 3 pupils receive at least 24 hours of basic cooking lessons. 

Yours sincerely,

Tom Aikens, Ainsley Harriott, Paul Merrett, Thomasina Miers, Jamie Oliver MBE, Arthur Potts Dawson, Gary Rhodes OBE, Nico Rilla, Oliver Rowe and Valentine Warner

Published Thursday 24 March 2011

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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