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Schoolinary art: practical cooking skills issues for the future

Dawn Mc Dowell (Department of Hospitality and Tourism, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)
Una McMahon-Beattie (Ulster Business School, Ulster University, Belfast, UK)
Amy Burns (Department of Hospitality and Tourism, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to consider the importance of structured and consistent practical cookery skills intervention in the 11-14-year age group. This paper reviews the impact and development of statutory and non-statutory cooking skills interventions in the UK and considers limitations in relation to life skills training. Currently practical cooking skills are mainly derived from two sources namely the non-statutory sector (community cooking interventions) and the statutory sector (Home Economics teaching).


The paper compares the two interventions in terms of effective long-term outcomes. Non-statutory cooking interventions are generally lottery funded and therefore tend to be single teaching blocks of, on average, six to eight weeks targeting mostly low-income adults and the literature emphasises a deficit of empirical measurement of the long-term impact. In contrast Home Economics classes offer a structured learning environment across genders and socio-economic groups. In addition it is taught over a substantial time frame to facilitate a process of practical skills development (with relevant theoretical teaching), reflection, group communication and consolidation, where according to current educational theory (Kolb, 1984) learning is more thoroughly embedded with the increased potential for longer term impact.


The review identifies the limitations of too many community initiatives or “project-itis” (Caraher, 2012, p. 10) and instead supports the use of the school curriculum to best maximise the learning of practical cooking skills.


This review will be of particular value to educationalists and health policy decision makers.



Mc Dowell, D., McMahon-Beattie, U. and Burns, A. (2015), "Schoolinary art: practical cooking skills issues for the future", British Food Journal, Vol. 117 No. 2, pp. 629-650.



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