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London - He has made his name trying to educate people about food – but when it comes to the more formal schooling of his own children, Jamie Oliver has confessed that he is ‘not the best parent’.
The TV chef has admitted that he encourages his daughter to skip her homework, and says he would be ‘shocked’ if even one of his four offspring earned a place at university.
He also cast doubt on the relevance of intense academic study, saying: ‘I don’t know if that’s the way to go. In Korea and Japan there are kids doing 14 or 16 hours days of school. Is that the way to go?’
Oliver’s comments would appear to be at odds with the ethos of his 2011 Channel 4 show Jamie’s Dream School, in which youngsters with few qualifications were taught by expert celebrities in a bid to revive their interest in learning. Several of the show’s participants later gave evidence to the Commons select committee on education.
In an exclusive interview for Tuesday’s Event magazine, Oliver confessed: ‘Maybe I am not the best parent. My daughter has to do two hours of homework a night. After one hour I’m saying, “Come on stop now. Let’s play. Let’s do something.”?’
The chef – father to Poppy, 11, Daisy, ten, Petal four, and Buddy, three – added: ‘If one of my kids goes to university I will be shocked.’
Oliver’s own education is sparse. He suffers from dyslexia and left school with just two GCSEs. He read his first novel last year – at the age of 38. The most valuable thing he derived from his days at Newport Free Grammar School in Essex appears to be his friendship with organic farmer Jimmy Doherty.
The pair will this week launch a new Channel 4 series, Jamie And Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, in which they invite celebrities, including Usain Bolt and Sienna Miller, to showcase their favourite dishes.
Despite the launch of yet another show, Oliver, who shot to fame as The Naked Chef, insists he has learned to curtail his punishing workload for the sake of his wife Jools and their children.
He said: ‘Ten years ago I was working seven days a week. But when you start having kids things change.
‘As a dad you can look up one day and that baby is three years old, and you are not the one they run to when they fall over and cut their knee.
‘I totally get it now. I employ two assistants who go through my diary just to fight for family time for me.’
He said despite all of his success he was most proud of being a husband and a father: ‘I feel very awkward saying this .??.??. I love Jools to bits, I think there’s loads more I could do to make her happier but as things go we are very happy and content.’
Multi-millionaire Oliver also said he wanted his children to learn about the value of money the hard way: ‘I want to start them off working in my dad’s pub like I did.’
In interview, Oliver also offered his support to Nigella Lawson following her well-publicised problems. He said: ‘I felt bad for her because she’s a lovely lady and what she does, she does very well. I know she’ll be OK because basically the public like her, and that’s what it comes down to. We will all still like Nigella.’
Mail On Sunday