Story by Jamie Oliver

First and foremost, before I tell you why we've set up Jamie's Home Cooking Skills, I just want to let you know that to study home cooking skills is to learn how to cook great food that tastes amazing, how to save money and, in the long run, how to lead a happier, healthier life.

Cooking is, without a doubt, one of the most important things a person can ever learn. Once someone has that knowledge, that's it – they're set for life.

It's no secret that my dream is to see everyone cooking good food from scratch and helping each other to learn new things in the kitchen. But the truth is we're a long way from that vision becoming a reality. As a nation, we've now reached a point where the lack of knowledge around cooking, and food in general, is having a hugely negative impact on our health. To cut a long story short, for the first time in history, younger generations are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, just because of the way we eat.

I've always believed that the key to tackling these big problems lies in the kitchen. In 2005, during my School Dinners campaign, I took my manifesto and a petition signed by 271,000 parents and teachers to Downing Street. I asked the government to make cooking and life skills compulsory for all kids.

Six years on, the government has finally put cooking lessons for 11- to 14-year-olds back on the curriculum. This was great news, but when I started talking to teachers and head teachers, I found that many were wondering what to do with this time.

I felt that I could do more to help. I wanted to see a cooking course in schools that would not only be fun and easy to teach, but also be truly inspiring for students and their teachers. I wanted to see something that would be relevant to modern-day life, using ingredients that are readily available in your average supermarket. Cooking was such a happy, positive part of my childhood and I honestly don't know where I would be today without it. It's massively important to me to get that same sense of enjoyment and achievement across to kids so they stay excited and want to keep cooking and learning about food.

During the past year, the team and I have been working really hard to bring together the information we think will help kids to build a solid base of knowledge and, together with Edexcel, we've created Home Cooking Skills Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications. They are easy-to-teach courses that will help students develop the essential skills they need to cook simple, nutritious, affordable food. This is about real food, for real life. No nonsense.

I see this Home Cooking Skills course as so much more than a qualification: it's a way of sharing a critical life skill with as many people as possible. This is a chance to arm students with sensible, practical knowledge they can take into the world and actually use. Whether they're having a party, cooking for mates, feeding their future children or making lunch, they'll be fending for themselves, saving money and using these skills every day for the rest of their lives.

We've really focused on the recipes and the idea of students learning through cooking, and this is what I believe makes the course so different from what's already out there. To guide you through the qualifications, every single recipe is backed up by loads of step-by-step photography, useful fact sheets and web links. Plus we've got loads of videos and images focusing on specific skills and even a few fun activity sheets.

This is a new area for me, and I can't wait to hear feedback from students and teachers. I want this to be the best cooking course available, and there is no reason why it shouldn't be light years ahead of everything else. I'm totally committed to developing the qualification, and as passionate as ever about getting young people cooking. So please, get stuck in and enjoy it!

Big love,
Jamie O

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