Friday, 15 May 2015

Sorry Jamie but schools don't have the time to indulge your fussbucketry


Hardly a day passes without one or other lobby group calling for their particular passion to be a compulsory subject in schools - the latest is Jamie Oliver's 'food revolution' which demands that loads of limited teaching time is given over to this chef's particular brand of nannying fussbucketry:


With diet-related diseases rising at an alarming rate, it has never been more important to educate children about food, where it comes from and how it affects their bodies.

On the face of things teaching children how to cook (I assume this is what Jamie means by 'practical food education') is a great idea - cookery is a really useful life skill. But here's the problem - we get between five and six hours for five days a week across 30 weeks in the year of teaching time. That's a maximum of 900 hours a year in which to teach children how to read and write, add and subtract, read a map, know the basics of history, understand science, learn the rudiments of a foreign language or two, understand culture and religion, experience great literature and a thousand other really important things. And the real figure for teaching time in the UK is much lower - 635 hours/year in primary and 715 hours/year in secondary.

And then lobbyists pop up and say that every child should be taught how to code, manage family accounts, know about STIs, play sport, paint and draw, learn to dance, act, sing, understand the electoral system, know about the courts, grow vegetables, build a table, mend a car and now cook. All fantastic and useful skills. It's hard to argue with any of them.

Except that there isn't the time. I'm not a teacher but I'm prepared to bet that all the zillions of things that might be taught at school have to be whittled down to the ones that really matter. And because most of us aren't ill from overeating (or eating the "wrong" food) lecturing the hell out of kids about diet - often using inaccurate or even downright incorrect information - really isn't a priority. At least not alongside reading, writing, maths, science, geography and history.

The truth of course is that obesity isn't rising - it has more-or-less flatlined over the past decade. More to the point though (and Jamie misinforms us with a ridiculous claim about 'diet-related disease') we are better fed, live longer lives and suffer far fewer diet-related conditions than past generations. It's true that there are too many morbidly obese people but hectoring kids with green peppers isn't going to change this one jot.

Whatever the truth or fiction here (and Jamie's campaign is mostly the latter) the one incontrovertible fact is that, if schools are made to put 'food eduction' into the curriculum, it will be at the expense of something else - learning french perhaps, maybe geography, or cutting back even more on physical exercise. As parents we want schools to give our children the skills and aspiration to succeed in a challenging world. And being rude about McDonalds and waving tomatoes around doesn't meet that need.

So I won't be signing Jamie's petition.


No comments: