Philippa James visits Northbrook Primary School in Leyland

Philippa James is fired with enthusiasm at a school where healthy eating is on the menu Photography by John Cocks

Encouraging children to eat healthily can be hard enough.

Getting them to eat like Olympians might be a step too far. But I was delighted to head for Northbrook Primary School in Leyland to give it my best shot. And, by the end, the children all deserved a medal.

It was there to run healthy eating cookery classes for Year 5 and Year 6,endorsing how Olympians eat to bring about optimum performance. I wasadmirably assisted by the dynamic school cook, Kath Bycroft, along with several members of the staff.

I knew as soon as I met David Johnson, the acting head, that we would get on. He told me: ‘Every Wednesday afternoon I feel that I’m like one of the Bisto kids, following my nose to the school kitchen. It really is great to see how enthusiastically pupils are embracing this latest  initiative.’

The school has, among many awards, already achieved the ‘Healthy School Status.’  Of course, I couldn’t just do conventional cookery – I decided to spice it up with a hot air balloon, manned by Robert Jones, from Lakeland Balloons in Lytham, Janet Parker, Janet Woodhouse and John Fenton, from Balloons over Lancashire. With the balloon in position, children arrived to watch me cooking my turkey dish over the hot air burner, thankfully reduced to a pilot light.

Then the wind dropped and the balloon, tethered to two Land Rovers, was inflated and rose a few feet, much to the delight of 100 or so onlookers.

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To give the event a party atmosphere, Cheshire chef Leigh Myers asked one of his suppliers, Alliance Disposable Ltd, of Bolton, to supply some crackers and I found some tiny chocolate bars as a stocking-filler for each child. Not part of an Olympian diet but I think it helped to make it a day the children will remember.

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