Learning … Cooking lessons (Image: GETTY)

A classroom “revolution” will arm tens of thousands with the simple tools needed to whip up delicious dishes in minutes.

It comes after growing alarm at the perilous state of children’s health with 41 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds overweight or obese.

Education MinisterWill Quince, who lost more than 6st during lockdown, said: “Learning the basics at a young age helps promote a nutritious diet and a healthier lifestyle of exercise and activity.

“Yet too many young people are still leaving education without the ability to cook and live healthily.”

Home economics was once a fixture of the curriculum but basic kitchen skills are now rarely taught in schools.

In response, the Government is committing £ 5million to launch a “cooking revolution” that will provide expert content and bursaries for teacher training.

The idea will be piloted at a handful of schools and academies later this year.

Alarming ... 41 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight or obese

Alarming … 41 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight or obese (Image: GETTY)

In the longer term, every child will leave secondary school knowing at least six basic recipes to support healthy living into adulthood.

Simple and flavorsome dishes include turkey katsu curry, slow-cooked stews, chickpea burgers and spaghetti bolognese.

All can be prepared in a matter of minutes using cupboard staples and cheap ingredients, can be loaded with fresh vegetables and can be stored or frozen for multiple meals.

The plans have the backing of Dr David Unwin, a healthy eating expert and GP.

He said: “We now have a situation where 41 per cent of young children are overweight. Their futures are fatty liver disease and diabetes.

“It means just 60 per cent are a normal weight and that’s insane.

“No matter how much money we pour into the NHS, it will never be enough to supply demand from failing public health and we are utterly asleep at the wheel.”

Worrying ... The cost-of-living crisis worsens the issue

Worrying … The cost-of-living crisis worsens the issue (Image: GETTY)

The timing is critical because no household is immune to the deepening cost-of-living crisis.

No age group is immune to the growing obesity crisis but medics are horrified that the National Child Measurement program shows 41 per cent – around 800,000 10 and 11-year-olds – were overweight or obese in 2020-21.That is up from 31.6 in 2006-7. Some 6.3 per cent were severely obese.

New laws from October will restrict offers on foods high in fat, sugar and salt by forcing shops to phase out deals, ban unhealthy food promotions and stop gimmicks like free sugary soft drinks refills.

The crackdown will also block unhealthy buy-one-get-one-free deals and ban junk food adverts on television before 9pm.

Millions of us remain baffled by contradictory health messages and are gorging on foods we think are healthy but are actually causing significant harm.

Few know a bowl of average breakfast cereal can contain eight teaspoons of sugar.

Official NHS guidelines still state meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, despite mounting evidence they can do more harm than good.

Obesity-driven Type 2 diabetes is now one of the fastest growing health emergencies in Britain and costs the NHS £ 15billion a year.

Four million people are blighted by the disease with that number set to rocket to 5.5 million by 2030.

At least another million have the condition, but are yet to be diagnosed, while 12.5 million are at increased risk because of chronically unhealthy lifestyles.

Meanwhile, one in 20 cancer cases is caused by excess weight with fat linked to 13 different types of the killer disease.

Later this month the first international Food Addiction Conference is being held in Bristol.

COMMENT BY WILL QUINCE

Britain has rediscovered its love of a fundamental life skill: cooking. Research found nearly three-quarters of us enjoyed being in the kitchen during the pandemic.

But cooking should not be a skill reserved for adults. Learning the basics at a young age helps children adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Sadly, there is a growing childhood obesity problem in our country. Nearly 15 per cent of reception-age children are obese. This figure rises to 25 per cent for those aged 10 to 11.

We have to act. This is important not only because obese children have poorer health but also because many face bullying from their peers, which often has devastating consequences for their mental wellbeing.

This Government has already ensured that the importance of a good diet is taught in schools across a range of compulsory subjects, including science and health education.

Our new Food Preparation and Nutrition GCSE, which was chosen by nearly 50,000 students this year, teaches students the benefits of a balanced diet while providing them with practical cookery experience.

Outside of the school term, our Holiday Activities and Food program is giving thousands of children healthy meals and educating them on nutrition and exercise.

And in our recent Leveling Up White Paper we set out plans to invest £ 5million to launch a school cooking revolution, including developing new content for the curriculum and providing bursaries for teacher training.

Taken together, our plans will give children the tools they need to eat well. This will give them the best chance to learn and develop – from childhood all the way through to adulthood.

  • Will Quince is Education Minister

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