This blog page has been written by Megan Owen, Head of Food Technology in response to the Government’s decision (16/7/2015) to stop teaching food at A level. @TeachFoodTech
Food Technology was always my favourite subject in secondary school. Being able to work creatively each week with a varying array of ingredients to skilfully make a range of products that I could proudly take home to impress my family with was both motivating and rewarding. Food lessons were my form of escapism; somewhere I could go to explore a growing passion, somewhere I could thrive and be myself, and somewhere I could clearly see the progress I was making through my increasing level of confidence, competence and independence within the kitchen.
When I chose my A Level options at 16, I, like many, was unsure of my future career path. I therefore opted for subjects that I enjoyed and had a strong interest in exploring further. Studying Food Technology at A Level sparked a desire to study a food related degree at university, which consequently resulted in me training to become a food teacher. The path that I followed to lead me to the point in my career that I am currently at therefore makes the announcement from OFQUAL (Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation) to remove Food as an A Level option truly upsetting and disappointing.
I chose to become a food teacher because I am a strong advocate of food education. I am wholly invested in helping the younger generations of our society, along with wider communities, develop vital cooking skills and a comprehensive understanding of nutrition that will enable them to lead healthier and more fulfilled lives. I want to be able to inspire my students in the same way that I was inspired by my own food teachers so that they develop a shared love and appreciation of food. Whether this leads to them being able to transfer better culinary skills to their own children, or ignites a fire in their bellies to embark on a successful and rewarding career in food, I want to make a difference! The impact I can make, however, will be severely lessened by the removal of Food as an A Level option.
Whilst there may be some truth behind OFQUAL’s arguments that “there are career-specific vocational qualifications” for students looking to progress into a career in food, and that “top universities offering food science/nutrition related courses…are looking for students with science qualifications…rather than food-related A levels”, as stated in the Reformed GCSE and A level subject content consultation documents, I can’t help but think that these justifications are narrow-minded and reflect a limited appreciation for the wealth of experience and transferable skills that students can gain from studying food in a practical, scientific and skill-based setting at A Level. Without food as an option, students will likely be shoe-horned into other subjects that may not be entirely relevant to their career aspirations, thus making them unable to explore and grow their passion for food further. As well as limiting the level of preparation students receive for food-focused degree programmes, this is also likely to impact the number of students that embark on food-related careers.
Whilst recent advances in the world of food education (including the extension of compulsory food in schools across Key Stages 1-3, and the announcement of the introduction of the new GCSE qualification in Food Preparation and Nutrition) suggest that the current government really are invested in combating the UK’s obesity epidemic and other diet-related health problems, many of which are linked to the decline of cooking skills in society, the cull of A Level Food contradicts this. I agree that following the GCSE and A Level reforms, Food should not be a part of Design Technology, however it should not be discarded as a subject! Food deserves to be a subject in its own right at A Level as it will be at GCSE from September 2016. On a personal level, I want to be able to the job that I set out to do, but more importantly, the fundamental role that the subject plays within our society needs to be recognised before it is too late. Please help save A Level Food by responding to the Reformed GCSE and A level subject content consultation – https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/.