Food to be removed as an A level option – respond to consultation please

This blog page has been created by Rachel Richards BSc (UWCC), MSc (Cranfield) , James Sharp BSc (UWSyd), MEd (Sydney)  Sarah Derwent BSc (Oxford Brookes), PGCE (Worcester) in response to OFQUAL

“Respond online – To help us analyse the responses please use the online system wherever possible. Visit www.education.gov.uk/consultations to submit your response.”
On Thursday 16th July 2015, OFQUAL (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) announced the study of ‘Food’ will be removed as an A level option, meaning, the last ever cohort of A level ‘Food’ students will enrol  September 2016. This decision was made by the Government without consultation involving DATA (Design and Technology Association), the exam boards, all universities offering food related courses and many other professional bodies for the below reasons:

In September 2014 Food and Nutrition study became compulsory for Key Stage 1-3 students. There is also a new GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition for Key Stage 4 combining all previous GCSE food courses into one from September 2016. Yet, from 2016 onwards the only ‘Food’ qualification taught in schools at Key Stage 5 will be a Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Food Science and Nutrition.  Having reviewed this only qualification available in detail, we have concluded it is both unsuitable across the entire ability range of students studying current ‘Food’ A level courses, and lacking in rigour for top universities offering undergraduate courses in Nutrition, Dietetics, Food Science & Technology.

Whilst uptake for ‘Food’ A Levels are low, research across all exam boards demonstrates a positive increase of students converting GCSE Food Technology, Food and Nutrition and Home Economics to A Level from 2.62% moving to 3.04% within the last five years, despite the introduction of EBacc having a detrimental impact on GCSE figures. It would be realistic to expect, with such a subject overhaul and investment into ‘Food’ at KS1-4 that these uptake numbers will continue to increase.

Students choose an A Level in ‘Food’ for reasons such as an enjoyable course, the study of science more accessible through practical learning, gaining valuable transferrable skills, ambitions to work within the food sector, great employment prospects or an interest in a nutrition and dietetics career. In our experience, many of our students who go on to study Food related degree courses, do so primarily as a result of their exposure to Food technology at A level.

A number of students studying the current A level Food qualifications (combined with a core science) have been accepted to Russell Group universities and graduated with Food Science / Nutrition degrees and other qualifications. Removing the ‘Food’ A level qualification restricts recruitment solely to students who are choosing a vocational rather than an academic route. We believe that all students should be able to choose whether they go down a “vocational” or “academic” route regardless of subject interest, as represented in industry and the variety of employment positions available. With 3.3 million people in Great Britain employed in the food sector, covering 12% of the British workforce (Food Statistics Pocketbook 2014, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and according to the NHS, the number of jobs for nutritionists has grown faster than in any other sector (http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/explore-by-career/wider-healthcare-team/careers-in-the-wider-healthcare-team/clinical-support-staff/nutritionist/) we question where will all these prospective candidates for graduate and postgraduate employment come from if they have not been exposed to Food sciences at A Level?

Ironically on the same day that the Government announced the removal of A level food, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss met with eighty leading representatives to discuss and design the ‘Great British Food and Farming Plan’; a 25 year Plan to secure the future of British food manufacture and sales. How can the removal of ‘Food’ as an A Level be consistent with the direction of future Government food policy? By devaluing the subject in schools it will remove the importance of food to the public. Therefore it will not be able to help fight the increasing food and health related issues in our society, nor will it help with recruitment and retention in this industry as 18 year olds will all be taking A levels without the knowledge and skills needed for food and nutrition related employment.

Lastly, we would like you to consider the impact removing A Level ‘Food’ will have on the employment of Food teachers, those new to the profession who have paid for a PGCE enabling them to teach ‘Food’ to KS3-5, and the message this sends to potential food teachers. There is already an insufficient recruitment pool of qualified professionals possessing skills needed to teach the KS1-3 courses (that have recently been made compulsory).

In light of our research and comments from OFQUAL we are proposing the creation of a new and rigorous A level, as opposed to removing this vital academic option altogether. We would like to see it develop as follows:

  • Reduce ‘Food’ A level courses to just one by replacing Food Technology and Home Economics to Food Science and Nutrition (similar to the recent changes at GCSE).
  • Increase the science content of the A level representing food and its importance in today’s society, whilst meeting university science requirements and industry needs. It should also be noted that most food related degrees are awarded a BSc at the end of study – representing the science elements studied in the qualifications.

Naturally, these proposals would require collaboration from exam boards, universities and all other stakeholders, enabling students to be better prepared for degree level studies in an A Level such as Food science and nutrition, alongside giving our students the opportunity to make better informed life decisions and being able to value their chosen career path.

We implore you to join with ourselves, university academics and industry professionals in demanding that OFQUAL reinstate Food with science as an A level that is separate from Design and Technology. You can do this by responding to question 2a (Design and Technology) in the consultation on A level reform.

You can read the consultation at this link (page 17): https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/448676/Reformed_GCSE_and_A_level_subject_content_consultation.pdf

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“Respond online – To help us analyse the responses please use the online system wherever possible. Visit www.education.gov.uk/consultations to submit your response.”

One thought on “Food to be removed as an A level option – respond to consultation please

  1. If the proposals go ahead, the last cohort would enrol in September 2016, not this September as indicated above.

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