Girls’ clamour for cookery puts topic back on timetable at Sheffield school

Former Great british Bake Off contestant Howard Middleton helps pupils at Sheffield High School to open their new kitchen facilities at the school 'Picture Dean Atkins
Former Great british Bake Off contestant Howard Middleton helps pupils at Sheffield High School to open their new kitchen facilities at the school 'Picture Dean Atkins
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Cookery is back on the timetable at a Sheffield girls’ school - more than 25 years after it was last taught there.

Sheffield High School in Broomhill has just opened a new £300,000 kitchen, bringing back cookery lessons by popular demand from pupils.

The room has been created in School House, a listed building on Newbould Lane which has been completely refurbished with eight work stations, a demonstration area, preparation room and state-of-the-art equipment.

Headteacher Valerie Dunsford said cookery was first introduced at the school in the early 1900s after the Girls’ Day School Trust - of which Sheffield High is a part - was reprimanded by the Schools’ Inspectorate for not devoting sufficient time to ‘housewifery’.

Following long-running battles with the inspectorate - the trust believed cookery did not fit with its ethos of teaching girls to be ‘educated members of society’ - a one-year course was introduced just for sixth-form students.

The subject eventually became referred to as domestic science or home economics, but was dropped in the late 1980s.

“This was a fairly common scenario throughout the country, and particularly in girls’ schools,” said Mrs Dunsford.

“Cookery went out of fashion, while design technology came into fashion, and we are now, as a country, facing the consequences of having a generation who have lost those primary cooking skills.

“Just last week the results of a survey were released which showed that young people in the 16 to 24 age group spend more on takeaways and ready meals than all other European countries put together, because they don’t know how to cook. We’re aiming to change that.”

Former Great British Bake Off contestant Howard Middleton visited the school as part of the opening celebrations. He judged a baking competition in which nearly 100 pupils and teachers were challenged to create a lemon sponge cake to a recipe by Mary Berry.

Hazel Stacey, who taught cookery at the private school in the 1960s, also came back for the day.

Howard said: “It is wonderful that cookery is being taught again. Knowing how to create even the simplest dishes will go a long way, and I do hope they find time for some baking.”