The project is getting under way this month thanks to hard work and inspiration from a partnership involving West Somerset Academies Trust, West Coast 360, Butlins, The Beach Hotel, West Somerset Council, Jobcentre Plus, and West Somerset College.
Six schools have signed up – St Peter’s, Old Cleeve and Danesfield in Williton; and in Minehead: St Michael’s, Minehead First and Minehead Middle. As a result, 1,100 children from year 4 to year 8 will be taking part.
The aim of the project is to inspire the children to learn a new skill, raise their aspirations, develop an interest in hospitality and catering – key industries for the area – and to improve transitions between years 4 and 5 and year 8 and 9.
“Learning to cook is a key skill for a rounded and balanced education. It’s great that we are getting so much support from local firms,” said Paul Rushforth, Chief Executive of the West Somerset Academies Trust.
Official launches in each of the schools are taking place this week to explain the competition and the rules – and this will be repeated in all six of the partner schools to get the youngsters fully involved.
Initial heats will follow later in the month in the schools, with pupils cooking in pairs to produce shortbread.
The winning pair and runners-up will be invited to take part in a masterclass with the professionals - Werner Hartholt (Butlins) and Paul Ruttledge (The Beach Hotel). This is scheduled to take place at West Somerset College on Tuesday 13 March.
The final bake, off a week later on 20th March, will see the pupils going head to head with their bakes being scored by a panel of judges who will decided on the overall winners.
“This is a fantastic way of getting our children involved in a fun and educational project at an early age,” said Cllr Andrew Hadley, West Somerset Council’s Lead Member for regeneration and economic growth. “I hope that it inspires our children and forges new relationships between schools in the Trust and between pupils in the groups from year 4 to year 8; this is so important in a rural area like West Somerset.”
A number of local businesses have also pledged to support the event including
Brook Food Processing Equipment and Arthur David & Co. who are covering the in costs of ingredients, baking equipment, and competition prizes.
Ann Wells, of Brook Food, said: “It’s a real pleasure to be involved with this project as it’s a great opportunity for local school children to be involved with a competition that can highlight their skills within such an important field. In our area we must look to encourage and support those looking to grow within the tourism and food and drink sectors and hopefully this is the first steps to that.”