“Healthy eating is vital to the education of our children,” says headteacher

Charlton Manor primary school in south-east London held its fifth annual Food in the curriculum conference last week (June 12) for anyone with an interest in food education. The one day practical training conference was attended by 100-plus delegates from schools and authorities from all over the country.

There were workshops, tours and presentations and guest speakers included Levi Roots, the entrepreneur and musician, and Chef Raymond Blanc.

Tim Baker, head of Charlton Manor, the only primary in the capital to win the London Healthy Schools gold award, said the conference was a “fantastic success”.

“Top chef Raymond Blanc is a great friend of the school and the passion in his speech was echoed by the other speakers,” said Mr Baker, who employs two full-time teaching chefs as part of Charlton Manor’s learning by living ethos.

“This was our biggest conference by far and we’re getting nearer to a national conference. There’s undoubtedly a growing agenda and focus on healthy eating, linked to obesity and increasing pressures on the NHS.

“The priority we put on healthy eating goes back to our teacher training days and our own experiences as children. The lessons we remember and value are the ones we learn by doing. Teaching has become very insular. Children aren’t sharing and experiencing enough and that’s what we’ve got to get back to.

“The kitchen is the engine room of the school and we teach cooking from nursery to Year 6 because it is an essential life skill. When our children go out into the big wide world there is no one who can be healthy for them and no one can exercise for them.”

Chef Raymond Blanc for siteRaymond Blanc described the food revolution as “irreversible”. He told the conference: “When I came to this country in 1972 school food was controlled by heavy marketing, heavy branding and heavy processing, and it became a mega problem for the nation.

“But now, thanks to people like Jamie Oliver, we have a revolution in healthy eating that cannot be stopped. People are putting pressure on retailers because they are connecting to the real values of food and know how important it is to our sense of community.

“I am always so happy to come to Charlton Manor because I know this school is inspiring thousands of others all over the country.”

Other speakers were Myles Bremner, national director of the School Food Plan; Lesley Batchelor, director of the Institute of Import and Export; Sarah Jayne Staines from Adopt A School; Stephanie Wood, director of School Food Matters; and Olivier Blanc, creator of the Henri Le Worm educational app.

Levi Roots said: “Food is about families, it’s about sharing, about bringing people into your lives. My grandma used to put pimento seeds on the barbecue and people from miles around would know what she was cooking. She didn’t need a telephone!”

Sarah Goosani, deputy head of Eastbury primary school in Barking, said: “It’s been a fantastic and inspiring conference. We have a long list of things to do when we get back, including enlarging our garden after seeing the Charlton Manor garden.

“We’ve been working on healthy eating for a year now. We have a new chef and a new menu, which the children love. Our soups are beautiful!”

*Year 5 pupils entertained delegates with a song they wrote themselves, ‘Be healthy, be strong, be happy, live long’.

*A ‘Good Elf Day’ will be held at Charlton Manor primary school on Friday, June 26, in a day all about healthy growing, cooking, eating and living.

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