First and foremost, before I tell you why we've set up this course, I just want to let you know that to study home cooking skills is to learn how to cook great food that tastes amazing, how to save money and, in the long run, how to lead a happier, healthier life.
Cooking is, without a doubt, one of the most important things a person can ever learn. Once someone has that knowledge, that's it - they're set for life.
It's no secret that my dream is to see everyone cooking good food from scratch and helping each other to learn new things in the kitchen. But the truth is we're a long way from that vision becoming a reality. As a nation, we've now reached a point where the lack of knowledge around cooking, and food in general, is having a hugely negative impact on our health. To cut a long story short, for the first time in history, younger generations are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, just because of the way we eat.
I've always believed that the key to tackling these big problems lies in the kitchen. In 2005, during my School Dinners campaign, I took my manifesto and a petition signed by 271,000 parents and teachers to Downing Street. I asked the government to make cooking and life skills compulsory for all kids.
Six years on, the government has finally put cooking lessons for 11- to 14-year-olds back on the curriculum. This was great news, but when I started talking to teachers and head teachers, I found that many were wondering what to do with this time.
I felt that I could do more to help. I wanted to see a cooking course in schools that would not only be fun and easy to teach, but also be truly inspiring for students and their teachers. I wanted to see something that would be relevant to modern-day life, using ingredients that are readily available in your average supermarket. Cooking was such a happy, positive part of my childhood and I honestly don't know where I would be today without it. It's massively important to me to get that same sense of enjoyment and achievement across to kids so they stay excited and want to keep cooking and learning about food.
During the past year, the team and I have been working really hard to bring together the information we think will help kids to build a solid base of knowledge and, together with Edexcel, we've created Home Cooking Skills Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications. They are easy-to-teach courses that will help students develop the essential skills they need to cook simple, nutritious, affordable food. This is about real food, for real life. No nonsense.
I see this Home Cooking Skills course as so much more than a qualification: it's a way of sharing a critical life skill with as many people as possible. This is a chance to arm students with sensible, practical knowledge they can take into the world and actually use. Whether they're having a party, cooking for mates, feeding their future children or making lunch, they'll be fending for themselves, saving money and using these skills every day for the rest of their lives.
We've really focused on the recipes and the idea of students learning through cooking, and this is what I believe makes the course so different from what's already out there. To guide you through the qualifications, every single recipe is backed up by loads of step-by-step photography, useful fact sheets and web links. Plus we've got loads of videos and images focusing on specific skills and even a few fun activity sheets.
This is a new area for me, and I can't wait to hear feedback from students and teachers. I want this to be the best cooking course available, and there is no reason why it shouldn't be light years ahead of everything else. I'm totally committed to developing the qualification, and as passionate as ever about getting young people cooking. So please, get stuck in and enjoy it!
The technical bit - from the Edexcel team
Jamie's Home Cooking Skills provides the ideal opportunity to begin teaching cooking skills in your centre or to accredit teaching that already takes place.
Consists of two single unit BTEC qualifications at Level 1 and Level 2
Both qualifications are fully funded on the QCF and contribute to Performance Points
Free online Teacher Support Materials will accompany the course. They have been designed with teacher-ease in mind. They are user-friendly enough for those teachers without a home economics qualification to be able to teach, while at the same time providing exciting content for more experienced teachers and those who already have a good knowledge of food and cooking.
|Level 1||Contributes to Foundation Learning provision||Focuses on giving young people the skills to prepare delicious and nutritious home-cooked food - using fresh ingredients - as well as an understanding of the value of passing on cooking knowledge|
|Level 2||Equivalent to half a GCSE||Develops the student's ability to plan and prepare a series of nutritious home-cooked meals for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner, and helps them understand how to cook economically|
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It's taken a lot of people to get this project off the ground so I have to do a few thank yous. Over the past 10 years, I've worked closely with the brilliant team at Penguin on all of my books, and I've picked out and adapted a lot of my favourite recipes from these to use on the course. The recipes are at the heart of the qualification so a massive shout out to all you lovely lot at Penguin for letting me do this.
David Loftus and Chris Terry have kindly allowed me to use loads of their beautiful photography throughout the course so a big thank you to them. Big thanks also to Matt Russell for shooting loads of extra step-by-step pictures.
Visually, we couldn't have done this without the fantastic design talent of Interstate who've helped us to create the whole Home Cooking Skills identity. Thanks also to The Plant design girls for putting a lot of the content together, to Peter Hamilton for the illustrations, and to Matt Shaw and Matt Russell for all the nifty editing in the video section.
Obviously big, big thanks have to go to the team at Edexcel for making this qualification possible. To Ian, Wendy, Richard and all of the guys who've offered us support and guidance along the way, thank you, we couldn't have done it without you.
And finally, thanks as ever to my wonderful team at the office for the huge amount of work you've put into this. To my amazing food team, word girls and web team, I know you've all worked ridiculously hard on this, so thank you. I won't list names here, but you know who you are and how much I appreciate all the work you've done.