TastEd and The University of Cambridge Primary SchoolFran
One of the projects that we’ve been most excited about over the past few months has been a collaboration with the University of Cambridge Primary School. The school is one of the first (along with Washingborough Academy in Lincolnshire) to adopt TastEd in every year group and the feedback from teachers so far has been hugely encouraging.
‘TastEd was their favourite time of the week’, said one teacher. Another said that a child who had previously refused to eat any food at school (including school lunches) and whose feeding was so problematic that they needed help from a dietitian for the past two years had tried and enjoyed three new foods in a TastEd lesson. The child’s parent was said to be ‘over the moon’.
Before the pandemic, we had already made contact with this remarkable school (which has many research links with the University of Cambridge) and early years teachers had received training in the TastEd method.
Then in March this year, the school’s head teacher James Biddulph got back in touch with us to say that in the light of all the hours spent out of school during the Covid-19 epidemic, his staff had decided how vital it was to work on children’s physical and mental wellbeing adding that he would ‘like to consider how we roll out the TastEd work across the whole school. It is an ambitious suggestion but we wonder if you would be interested in supporting us to become a beacon of excellence (and hope!) for others?’
During the summer and at the start of the autumn term, members of the TastEd team including education consultant Ruth Platt, food policy researcher Kim Smith, TastEd treasurer Jane Lockie and TastEd founder Bee Wilson delivered two training sessions to the whole staff (including teaching assistants and the kitchen team). It was great to see teachers having so much fun during the sessions and enjoying trying food in each other’s company. We spoke to teaching assistants who said they planned to use TastEd in one-on-one sessions working with children on the autistic spectrum.
We returned before half-term to see how things were going after a five-week course of TastEd and were thrilled to find that there was positive feedback from all of the year groups. In Year 3, the teachers said that children had discovered common cultural ground during the lessons. A Year 1 teacher said that the experience of seeing their friends try new foods encouraged the others to try. A year 6 teacher said there was ‘uproar’ when the children realised that it was the final TastEd lesson of the term. She said that they especially enjoyed making and eating a Greek salad and that she was startled to find that many of the children had never tried oranges before.
Another positive aspect of this collaboration so far is the way in which this team of creative teachers have made TastEd their own and added their own activities on to the lesson plans.
One teacher had the brilliant idea during a lesson on bell peppers of asking the children to draw what they imagined the inside of a pepper would look like. When they cut it open, it didn’t look anything like most of them imagined.
We were also so happy to hear that the school’s leaders on TastEd – Elena Natale and Luke Rolls – had actively involved the school chef, Tiago Rodrigues, in the activities, thus strengthening the links between food education and school lunches. Tiago’s kitchen team have provided the fruits and vegetables for the lessons and Tiago also taught a TastEd lesson himself with great passion and knowledge.
Many of the teachers, especially in Key Stage 1, told us that their main feedback on TastEd was: how can we do more of this? They felt that just five sessions were not enough. For the second half of term, we have created three new topic lessons for the school based around the Great Fire of London, Pompeii and the food of refugees.
Now that the University of Cambridge Primary School has shown how easy and rewarding it is to use TastEd to deliver the cooking and nutrition curriculum in every year group, our hope is that many other schools will join them. As one Year 2 teacher said, ‘it’s the only time I’ve seen every single child in the class join in’.