Home Economics is very popular at Leweston and a particularly essential life skill needed by girls, particularly in a boarding environment. Practical lessons are included in the core curriculum and are compulsory for Years 7, 8 and 9, where girls learn the basic skills they need to be able to cook healthy and nutritious meals.
In Year 7 girls learn practical skills, learning how to cook safely and hygienically. Each term is themed, starting in the autumn term using seasonal fruit and vegetables to learn knife skills. Basic recipes are prepared to help the girls learn about food hygiene, food and personal safety. Food storage and preservation are the mainstay of the lessons, with the term ending with making Christmas celebration foods. In the spring term the focus is the culinary use of eggs and recipes to celebrate Valentines Day, Chinese New Year and Easter support this. The focus of the summer term is dairy products and the use of summer fruits. By the end of this year of cooking the girls are competent in following recipes and starting to cook independently.
In Year 8 the girls build on the skills learned in Year 7. Their theme for the year is the many uses of grains and grasses in cooking, learning how to make pastries, bread, pasta and rice dishes.
In Year 9 the girls are given the opportunity to have more involvement in the choice of recipes to cook. The focus is healthy eating and the girls in general cook a wide range of vegetarian, meat and fish dishes as well as the ever popular desserts. At the end of Year 9 girls decide if they would like to continue with Home Economics and study for the GCSE in Food and Nutrition.
AQA Food and Nutrition GCSE is offered to Years 10 and 11, for those who want to gain more advanced skills and have a sound understanding of the basics of nutrition. This GCSE consists of a written paper (40% of total mark) and a controlled assessment piece of coursework (60% of total mark). The written paper covers the topics nutrition; diet and health through life; techniques and skills used in food storage, preparation and cooking; the nutritional, physical, chemical and sensory properties of food; the factors affecting consumer choice; and food hygiene and safety. The controlled assessment comprises two externally set tasks: an individual investigation and a research task. Pupils select topics from a list compiled by the examination board, these include health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and anaemia; food choices for specific groups e.g. the single elderly, children under 5 or teenagers; the use of food preparation equipment; and how media and advertising influence food choice.
Girls studying for the GCSE often attend cookery clubs and enter cookery competitions to improve and enhance their practical skills. Those taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme can gain their volunteer award by supporting the Junior School Cookery Club, where they learn how to interact with young children and how to help them have fun while learning how to cook safely.
Girls in Year 13 attend themed cooking sessions, where they learn to cook balanced, healthy, economic meals to prepare them for life after Leweston.
October 2010 saw the launch of the prestigious Leiths Academy Introductory Certificate in Food and Wine, which is run as an after school enrichment activity for Sixth Form pupils. Leweston is one of only 14 schools in England to offer this 40 week course.
The Introductory Certificate is a professional practical and theory cookery course, with the primary aim being to give the students a vital life skill for independent living in addition to opening up areas of employment.
Girls who have attended and successfully completed this course have gone on to university to study hotel management and hospitality, and have been able to earn money to support their higher education studies by cooking for families, ski seasons, etc.
Each year Chinese New Year is celebrated with a party organized and cooked by the Sixth Form Chinese boarders. They plan their celebration menu often using family recipes, organise shopping, spend a whole day cooking and preparing the meal, which they serve to and share with invited members of staff and girls. The girls not involved in cooking make decorations to give the venue an authentic feel. The event is a great experience and a lot of fun for both the international students and their friends.
There are many opportunities to enjoy and participate in cooking at Leweston either through lessons, clubs or extra curricular activities. Clubs regularly offered are Cookery Club, Sugar-craft, Competitive Cookery, Herbal and Therapeutic Nutrition and Make and Eat Your Own Beauty Products. There is also an extremely popular Junior Department Cookery Club.
Entry into cookery competitions is encouraged to develop skills and gain confidence.
In recent years Leweston pupils have won places at the Regional final of the QSM Beef Mince Young Chef Challenge. Saturday Morning Kitchen celebrity chef James Martin judges this national competition and only 40 pupils are selected to cook for him. Leweston has regularly been placed first, second and third in the regional finals. The annual Rotary Club Young Chef competition is always a popular challenge and Leweston pupils have achieved places in the semi finals. A lot of effort is put in by the students for these competitions, from which they achieve great success and have lots of fun.
Food is always a popular choice for celebrations and events and we try to incorporate as many requests from the girls, as we can possibly fit into the calendar. Both boarders and day girls often make and decorate birthday cakes for their friends and family. The Mexican Day of the Dead festival, has been celebrated by the boarders making and decorating sugar skulls, as they would at home in Mexico. Chinese New Year is celebrated with a party organized by the girls and often cooking recipes they would cook with their families at home. May Day is celebrated with the boarders cooking foods from a range of European countries, which they share with invited guests.