Every pupil at Beech Hall, from reception to Year 10, takes part in food technology on a weekly basis. Sam Karle, Head Chef at Mottram Hall, opened our brand-new facility in September last year and, since then, pupils and adults have enjoyed the widest of gastronomic opportunities. In addition to their weekly lessons in healthy eating, food hygiene, preparation and cooking, pupils attend after-school clubs and parents have enthusiastically taken the opportunity to extend their own skills in Saturday lessons.
To celebrate the new facility, and the introduction of food technology onto the curriculum, we launched ‘The Beech Hall Bake-Off Challenge’. Pupils were invited to enter the Bake-Off competition at the start of the spring term. They were paired, a senior and a junior working in partnership, and the competition launched with millionaire shortbread. For nine weeks, 20 pupils worked in 10 pairs doing their best to out-bake their rivals. The intricacy of petits fours followed consecutive pie weeks, first beef and vegetable then cheese and onion.
Each week began with the introductory demonstration from parent and chef, Stewart Morrell. From then, it was up to the culinary expertise and ingenuity of the pupils to decide who, each week, would be crowned ‘star baker’. As the competition reached its half-way point, just eight points separated the top four teams, and it was already becoming clear which chefs were heading for greatness.
The combination of a senior and junior working together is very much in the family spirit of Beech Hall as pupils support one another at break times and within extra-curricular and sporting opportunities.
“It’s the dynamic partnership of the team,” said one of my senior prefects referring to the favourite-to-win collaboration of Harry Lyons (Year 10) and George Shephard (Year 4). Not far behind them was the similarly hot favourite – if more understated – alliance of Sam Timson (Year 10) and Isabelle Whittle (Year 4).
The heat in the kitchen rose, as it did in the competition. Lemon drizzle, chocolate fudge brownies and Welsh rarebit muffins added to the pressure as the pairs continued to be put to the test. No longer was this a fun after-school club; this was extra-curricular extreme and the boys and girls meant business. Nine weeks after its opening, the culinary companionship of Harriet Gordon and Calla Morrell, Jemima Brown and Frankie Lowe joined the hot favourites. The scene was set for week 10 and the final challenge. The finalists’ briefing sheet stipulated: “You will be shown each stage of preparation on the day and each pair will present two swans – one prepared by the younger team member and one prepared by the older team member.” The whole event then came down to my own judging abilities based on taste and presentation. In the end, it was Sam and Isabelle who took the crown for their impressive swans.
Einstein is credited with insisting that everyone is a genius: “But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
At Beech Hall, there is an intrinsic understanding that pupils learn in different ways – with different learning styles – and what works for me does not necessarily work for you. A broader curriculum that includes building dens, climbing trees, designing copper pipe animals, creating alien species and making your own stuffed pepper recipe, is at the heart and root of the Beech Hall offer. Enterprising initiatives, an immense cycle ride raising £12,000 for a local school, the introduction of chickens and a bearded dragon, drone-flying and photography all enhance the lives of pupils at Beech Hall to ensure that they leave us as confident, interesting and successful young men and women who have the determination and self-assuredness to pursue their own individual interests and passions.