Ok, I am going to get on my soapbox and talk about a subject that has been dear to my heart for a number of years. Let's get Home Economics back on the National Curriculum for all children from the age of 9 (at the very least - in my ideal world even younger).
I confess - I'm a passionate foodie - I love eating in, eating out, could happily spend hours watching food programmes or poring over a new cookery book or testing new kitchen products. It's safe to say that the food aspect of my life has been one of my key career drivers.
Home Economics (HE) isn't just about preparing great foods, it's also about nutrition, so bringing together food groups in the right way to achieve a balanced diet and in the right portion sizes. It's about understanding the economics around feeding a household. And it's about understanding that food can be a reason to get together with friends and family.
I learnt all this from two fantastic HE teachers at high school and then I was fortunate enough to go off to The Birmingham College of Food and Domestic Arts after my A-Levels. I wanted to be a Home Economist so badly I re-took my Maths O-Level (my least favourite subject) a number of times and I took a night class to make sure I had an O-Level in Human Biology.
Now, not everybody is going to want to know all the ins and outs like I did, but surely a basic understanding has got to bring benefits? I was lucky; not only did I have role models at school but my mother came from a generation where women needed to know how to cook and because I was interested and maybe showed a bit of aptitude, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning directly from my Mum. So parents can play their role too - but as with most things, home life and education should complement and enhance each other.
I also started cooking at an early age - at middle school we learnt how to make scones and Eccles cakes (you're remembering along with me, aren't you?). As we advanced in years, so did our repertoire - Victoria Sponge, Cornish Pasties, Quiche Lorraine or perhaps Shepherd's Pie. In those days you went home oh so proud of your efforts and your parents would dutifully make all the right noises. At the end of each school year you had some basic skills and in the years to come you could confidently make and feed yourself something different every day.
It doesn't seem to be the case these days. My teenage son has been at High School for two years now and as I understand the curriculum he has a term of food, a term of textiles (what is that when it's at home? Actually, I do recall a pretty negative conversation about "when am I ever going to need to make a bag, Mum?") and a term of Resistant Materials (that's Perpetual Calendars and Trophies, I think!). With all due respect to my son's school (where there are many positives) one term of food per school year is not enough and sending children home to find their own recipe and leaving them to their own devices in the lesson itself beggars belief.
Ok, so being able to follow a recipe is probably key, but physically writing down the ingredients and the required weights, having to shop for them is just as important. Understanding the stages of preparation and what happens at each point is also vital as well as how to serve it up. If there were a little more oomph to support the process of cooking the end dish surely it's going to help kids get to grips with what a good balanced dish is all about?
I applaud schemes like 'Let's Get Cooking' - recently launched by Vince Cable - but it's a club and why does it have to rely on the Health Lottery to fund the scheme? HE needs to be a subject given the same status as PE or English, for example.
There needs to be some time given over to food both at school and at home to appreciate that it doesn't all come out of a polystyrene box and is ready in 3 minutes and a ping of the microwave. Do we not want the youngsters of today to keep off the fast food, step away from the gadgets, and stop them potentially having a future where their health is at risk before they've even left school?
Childhood obesity is rarely out of the headlines - being blamed for everything from diabetes to asthma. For me, it's not a short term tactic that's needed to reverse the trend -like a tax - but a change in our food learning culture. Without looking at my experience through rose tinted spectacles (and trust me, I am not perfect!), my Home Economics class gave me such a good, solid grounding in food and nutrition that I've drawn on throughout my life
What I think is probably immaterial in the scheme of things but some food for thought (sorry!)..........the food sector seems to be making an awful lot of people pretty famous and pretty rich these days and cooking can be a lucrative business: organic box deliveries are on the rise (for example, Abel & Cole have 50,000 weekly deliveries under its belt) and cookery programmes are amongst our most watched TV programmes, especially with the rise of on demand. And not only do we have celebrity chefs and 3* Michelin restaurants but jobs involving food are plentiful.
The sad thing is when you're growing up you probably don't even know about the plethora of the career opportunities. In fact, most of us stumble upon a career, but that's a whole other blog..........