The Perthshire’s schools engaging pupils with food and its origins

The Perthshire’s schools engaging pupils with food and its origins

credit: RHET/Eilidh Robertson Photography

Imaginative ways to engage local pupils with the food and farming that surrounds them

Much is made of the decline in curriculum cooking lessons, and of teenagers unable to make a bowl of soup. Blairgowrie High School tells a different story; one in which over half the 850 pupils in the school pass through the home economics department in an academic year, with significant numbers going on to take formal hospitality qualifications.

The school is unusually well-equipped, with a teaching kitchen as well as Aspirations, the campus restaurant where students’ creations are put to the test. Directed by dynamic home economics teacher Lynn Smith and Willie Little of Little’s seafood restaurant in Blairgowrie, lunch was served recently to a delegation of Indian education specialists, in the country to observe how Scottish schools prepare young people for work.

In a region with such strong tourism, food and farming industries, it makes sense for schools to encourage pupils to become skilled in these areas. Little is one of a number of the school’s business partners, and takes a proactive attitude to the role. In April 2013, he and Seafish hosted a trip to Peterhead Fish Market where pupils watched the morning’s catch being landed, toured the trawlers and learned how fish is sorted, processed and sold. A few months later they took over Little’s restaurant for a night, tracing the journey to the plate by serving 40 customers.

Education is an area the Scottish Government is keen to encourage, backing initiatives such as Chefs @ School (launched at Gleneagles in 2013). The Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) also has a local scheme that organises milking demos with Daisy the life-size (fake) cow, school farmers’ markets and interactive farming days. There were 25 farm visits and 90 classroom talks in session 2012/13, giving pupils across Perthshire an insight into the practicalities of a working farm.

As Little explained when he organised the Peterhead trip: ‘Fishmongering appears to be a dying trade and the majority of customers visiting my shop are on average 50–90 years old. The eight pupils from Blairgowrie are 15–17 years old, with an interest in the fishing industry.’

By engaging pupils’ interest now, Scotland’s food industries can ensure they are supported by enthusiastic and knowledgable professionals in years to come.