How skills competitions can enhance the curriculum?

In education it is important to remember that many pupils learn very effectively by doing and it is important to celebrate this as well as academic excellence. Competitions in skills based activities can be used effectively to drive up standards and encourage excellence. Competitions can also use formative and summative assessment when pupils are made aware of the marking criteria.

Young people spontaneously seek competition with their peer groups. They seem to have a natural desire to compare themselves with others in many ways and this can be used in a healthy way to build up resilience and confidence. Learning a skill and competing in that skill requires dedication, hard work and discipline and competitions can also help young people to understand what persistence, sacrifice, success and indeed failure really means.

I had the privilege of attending the Golden Apron Competition yesterday at the Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School. The young people were invited to submit a dish using locally sourced pork as a core ingredient, working within a timeframe of two hours, and a budget of £10 for two servings.

Pupils from various state, independent schools and local colleges aged between 14-19 competed in the heats in the hope of becoming Yorkshire’s Best Young Chef. The best eight entries were invited to the Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School on 24 October, and asked to cook for a panel .The task was no mean feat and the young people had to prepare their own dish in the morning, and a dish chosen by Mackenzie in the afternoon. Dishes were judged by staff from the school, as well as sponsors, and Michelin starred chef James Mackensie.

Participants arrived promptly and carried boxes full of fresh seasonal and British ingredients and cookery equipment eager to show off their culinary skills and flair. A competitive edge and buzz could be felt in both the noises and smells from the energetic kitchen and in the waiting area which was full of anxiously waiting family, friends and food teachers. Within this competition young people have an opportunity to develop their cookery and presentation skills that they use in food lessons but more importantly, they prove their ability to cope in a demanding situation made even more demanding by the presence of a Michelin starred Chef. The standard of dishes presented was inspirational and an absolute credit to the young people and their desire to achieve and impress.

The best three from this group, as a result of winning the heats will be mentored for a day at the Pipe and Glass Inn, and asked to cook alongside Mackenzie and his team for a gala dinner, with each finalist asked to prepare three starter-sized main course dishes for 70 guests. The winner will be named as the Golden Apron 2015. The winner will then be given a work placement with food supplier Cranswick, working with its new product development team on the Asda supermarket account. How exciting is that?

I certainly was impressed and delighted to attend this wonderful competition with one of my talented pupils. I imagine that the final at the Pipe Inn and Glass will be a night to remember and perhaps a turning point in these young people’s lives.

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