Ex-Shadow Defra Secretary Kerry McCarthy has called for food and farming to be embedded in the school curriculum.
Ms McCarthy made the demand during a parliamentary debate she sponsored this week, where she criticised the current Government for dropping Labour’s Sustainable Schools Strategy, which included a section on food and drink.
She also took aim at Ministers for scrapping land-based science GCSE’s because of a ‘lack of confidence in new content being developed’.
Ms McCarthy said: “Young people should learn about climate change, the impact our behaviour is having on the planet and how we can address that.
“They should learn about where our food comes from and why what we grow and eat matters.
“It is not just about acquiring knowledge for the sake of it; it is about children’s mental and physical wellbeing and equipping them for life as adults, enjoying nature and living sustainably.
“The fact is they love learning about these things.”
Several third-sector initiatives were praised by the MP, including Farming and Countryside Education’s (FACE) online countryside classroom portal for teachers, which provides materials for children to discuss badgers, bee health, migrant labour, food waste and flooding.
The FaceTime a farmer scheme, set up by Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Martin, was also credited with giving school pupils the opportunity to learn about farming without getting out on farm.
But Ms McCarthy told Ministers it was not enough for Government to ‘leave initiatives to the schools which have decided to run with them’, making clear it was vital for children to learn about food and farming in order for the industry to have a future workforce.
“The horticultural and agricultural sectors are currently experiencing a skills shortage”, she said.
“The food sector is a huge part of the economy, and innovative, value-added products are the future of that industry.
“We need to engage young people and get them interested in careers in this field. There are so many things young people could be inspired to do.”