COOKERY lessons are to be compulsory in England`s secondary schools for children aged 11 to 14 as the government battles to reduce childhood obesity.
Pupils will learn to cook for an hour a week for one term, with schools even subsiding poorer pupils` ingredients.
Cookery is a ministerial "expectation" but, as an optional part of the design and technology curriculum, is not currently taught in all schools.
The government has decided to act as experts believe one million children will be obese in a decade in the UK.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families says that about 85 per cent of secondary schools already offer cookery in some form, and it wants those schools to make the change immediately, with the rest following suit by 2011.
The aim is to train higher level teaching assistants to do some of the teaching and to recruit more food technology teachers.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls wants to see 800 cookery teachers trained. Speaking on BBC One`s Breakfast programme, Mr Balls said: "I think it is important to act now and maybe we should have acted earlier.
"It`s not going to be just the technology of food, it will be how you can use simple ingredients, simple recipes, so that children and young people can be prepared for adult life."
He is promising to give schools £2.5m a year to help children from poor homes to pay for ingredients.
According to Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, the subject has suffered in recent years, stretching back to the introduction of the national curriculum in 1992.
This put food in with design and technology - alongside resistant materials, systems and textiles.
Ofsted said pupils were often taught "trivia" such as "arranging toppings decoratively on a pizza" or using complex engineering computer-aided design software to produce simple drawings of icing on cakes.
Timetabling was made awkward by larger class sizes and a shortage of specialist teachers.
The "unique" way the subject was funded - with parents supplying or paying for ingredients - was also a fundamental problem, the inspectors said.
But officials at the schools department say it is a myth that there was once a "golden age" when everyone learnt to cook at school. This was never the case, they say.