Open Futures People: an interview with Ann Kerry, cookit specialist

Open Futures people is a regular feature in openit. In each issue we interview a member of the Open Futures team to find out how they got involved with Open Futures and what's happening in their strand.

Ann Kerry, Open Futures' cookit specialist,  is a qualified teacher and taught in schools for many years. She was one of the first female heads of Design and Technology in a secondary school after the launch of the National Curriculum in 1988. Ann holds an Advanced Diploma in Food Safety and Hygiene, an MSc in Food, Management and Nutrition, and is a trainer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. 

How did you become involved with Open Futures and cookit?
I was the Senior Education Officer for the Focus on Food campaign managed by the Design Dimension Education Trust. At that time I managed the Cooking Buses and staff and in addition managed the other projects and initiatives that we were involved with. Open Futures (or Growit Cookit as it was called then) was one of these. We had one “project officer” at that time working in schools along the south coast and I managed and oversaw the planning, delivery and reporting of the work as well as regular training of the “project officer”. As Open Futures grew and evolved we worked in other areas across England and this entailed engaging more “project officers” or trainers. In 2011 I departed from the Focus on Food campaign and worked directly with Open Futures where I still manage the cookit strand.

How long have you been delivering cookit and what impact have you seen on children’s learning? 
I have been delivering cookit from the onset of Open Futures. The impact on children’s learning is enormous. Not only does it develop their knowledge and recognition and nutritional value of food and awareness of provenance, it provides them with the skills and confidence to be able to cook food using fresh raw ingredients. It also helps children to understand a wide range of other concepts and knowledge in other subjects, sometimes difficult to understand when without the practical and visual aspects some subjects can appear to be quite abstract, in particular Maths and Science. It develops their literacy and language skills, through reading, listening, following instructions, asking, and answering questions and through discussion. The impact influences the children’s interpersonal skills and has a positive effect upon the ‘whole child’, which in turn can improve behaviour and fosters enthusiasm to learn.

Technology has advanced significantly since the launch of cookit. What do you think is the best kitchen gadget in the last 10 years? 
There are many amazing pieces of kitchen equipment, some less useful than others, but the ‘invention’ of the induction hob is one that I think is invaluable, particularly in schools. I regularly recommend that schools purchase a portable induction hob, even if they have a cooker with a hob. This is because it can be used in classrooms and sited at a height that children can see a process. It is extremely safe with regard to use with children, and the heat is very easy to control.

What would you eat for your last supper?
Vegetable Chilli

What’s your favourite meal to cook for family and friends?
Tuscan soup served with sun-dried tomato and basil bread, followed by grilled salmon served with roasted vegetable couscous. If we have a dessert it would be Jamaican fruit salad, or rhubarb and ginger crumble depending upon the time of year.

How do you see cookit developing over the next ten years?
I see cookit continuing to relate to the curriculum and current education trends. I also see that there will be increasing need and demand for staff training so that it can be taught in all schools as part of the curriculum. The need for nutritional knowledge and cooking using fresh raw ingredients is more crucial now than ever with the ever-increasing growth of childhood obesity.