This vital skill is never taught in our primary schools……why not?

I’ve planned to teach it – I have discussed it with my T.A,  and yet never actually got round to teaching this particular skill.

What is the purpose of education? – well that’s a philosophical question if ever there was one! Yet if we asked a cohort of teachers then I would suspect that there would be a range of replies. Some answering politically, some philosophically and some just being outspoken and honest!

Let me first make this statement …the purpose of education is not meant to be solely to please OFSTED, its not solely meant to be to pass the SAT’s every year so that inspectors don’t descend on the school and  its certainly should not be to give teachers enough overload to drastically affect every area of their lives…which seems it’s purpose at times!

No…in a simple nutshell – education is to prepare children (and adults) for LIFE.

As such, and quite rightly, we should (and often don’t) see equal relevance and priority given to skills as well as knowledge….and this should extend right across the curriculum and beyond.


Bearing this in mind, let me get onto my subject for this article. It’s bugged me for years and again yes, I know, I never got round to it….

                                                                       Teaching children to use a knife and fork

Every time I used to go in for dinners with the children or on a residential, I returned saying ” I am going to teach this….they haven’t a clue!”

Now maybe you are like me, you actually taught your own children how to use a knife and fork. I did, and then in true teacher fashion kept reinforcing it at home and even more embarrassingly when we ate out! But both my boys learnt this simple basic skill which stands them in good stead for ever…I hope!

But having seen, the quite frankly dangerous contortionist acts that occur daily in the school dining hall, it seems that many parents do not have the same concerns. Children struggle literally with the “implements” and their attacks on the food leave me quite lost for words!

Ok so it seems credible and identifies a need – but there’s no way it can be fitted into the curriculum!

If you read yesterdays article we spoke about imposing flexibility into our curriculum; in other words not getting pushed around by everything that surrounds us.

So in reply to the “no time” shout then I will say, if you feel that it is important then make time. Perhaps build a couple of lessons into your science under the guise of healthy eating, trade some Art time or PSHE. In other words steal a couple of lessons and include this into your class curriculum.

But what would you teach?

Here’s the basics….

  • Which hand do the knife and fork go in?
  • How do you hold them?
  • How do you sit at the table?
  • Where do your elbows go?!!!….
  • Using the fork first.
  • How do you cut?
  • What size pieces do you need to make.
  • Putting food to your mouth.
  • Tricky stuff like peas and beans (beans are better because they stick to the fork easier!)

When you start to break it down then you can see (and identify) just why children who have not been shown, have a problem….there are a lot of component areas.

The other question is of course what would you use to teach this skill. I have given this some thought and also considered the questions of do we use the school cutlery (and run the risk of upsetting the kitchen staff) or do we buy in our own plastic cutlery?

So just what do I recommend as the food to practice on – Melon I think has the right consistency to allow for use of forks and knives and can be successfully cut by all the children. Anything more challenging becomes an obstacle in itself to the skills being taught.


Should parents be doing this?

The easy answer is yes and some do….but alas I think that the majority seems not to – at least for the children in the schools that I have both taught in and visit now!


In conclusion

In what is a slightly tongue in cheek article I do have an underlying mission. If education is to prepare children for life and to provide life skills then the biggest failure that you will see is in the dining hall.

I used to, and continue to emerge with a burning desire to place this at the “heart of my curriculum.” But as  with many things it gets swamped by the morass of the curriculum and is forgotten until the next occasion I may take my life into my hands and tackle school dinners!






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