A challenge to the DFEE

5th May 2000 at 01:00
DURING the recent revision of the national curriculum, the opportunity was lost to mandate programmes of study in support of food technology at key stage 3. The implications for pupils' food education and the repercussions for recruitment will affect a wide range of schools, while the adverse effect on the nation's health defies measurement. Consider the following contradictory evidence from a Government committed to technological education and improving the nation's health:

* Around 94 per cent of schools offer food technology in their KS3 courses. So a statutory programme of study encompassing the teaching and learning of nutrition and healthy eating through practical design and make activity would benefit most pupils. Surely the financial implication for a few schools without facilities is a comparatively small investment?

* The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority was charged with looking for ways in which the non-statutory framework for PSHE could strengthen the place of food issues within the national curriculum, by its emphasis on developing healthy lifestyles. So it is curious that not one sentence is to be found about food education in the published programmes.

* The Government is on record as being committed to Healthy Schools, assuring us that one of its components, Cooking for Kids, will promote knowledge and experience of food preparation for young people. Cooking for Kids sessions are held during half-term and school holidays and will only affect a small, though increasing, minority of pupil who participate in out-of-hours learning opportunities. It remains questionable whether such ad hoc experiences will achieve the desired outcomes.

* Recent research has highlighted the alarming levels of ignorance about food hygiene among young people. An enormous investment has been made, via European funding, to produce resources aimed at redressing this problem. The same research also indicates that food hygiene is most effective when taught by well-qualified professionals, during practical food handling activities underpinned by scientific principles. This seems to be at odds with the removal of the statements concerning health and safety from the design and technology Order.

Food technology teachers are resilient. Passionate about their subject and committed to a broad and balanced technological experience for all pupils, they will continue to develop the excellent programmes of learning witnessed in so many Office for Standards in Education reports. GCSE food technology will undoubtedly remain one of the two most popular design and technology options and the new ASA2 levels will flourish under the leadership of talented teachers. The challenge to the Department for Education and Employment is clear. If it is committed to food education then let us invest in a curriculum-based food technology initiative aimed at empowering teachers to meet the Government targets of improved health and education.


Jenny Jupe is deputy chief executive of the Design and Technology Association.

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