Just one missing ingredient;Subject of the Week;Technology

29th October 1999 at 01:00
First, the good news. The recent national curriculum review has kept the best bits and cut out the duplication. Science has kept nutrition at all four key stages, which should ensure a sound theoretical grounding for all pupils.

Including food in design and technology at key stages 1 and 2 contributes to an inclusive curriculum and promotes equal opportunities. Pupils will have hands-on experience with food, which should be creative and motivating. And design and technology has held its ground at key stage 4, albeit subject to monitoring.

But food is not compulsory at key stage 3 in the design and technology curriculum. It wasn't compulsory before the review . It isn't compulsory now. So, what's all the fuss about?

Recent years have seen lively debate about the role of food in design and technology. Critics initially resisted the idea of using food as a material for designing and making. Arguments were sometimes weak and there were confused attempts to claim that home economics was the same as food technology.

The Design and Technology Association consulted widely to tease out the arguments, define food technology and establish a sound educational rationale for its inclusion in the curriculum.

Whereas home economics is principally set in a domestic context, the focus of food technology is industrial. It enables pupils to become informed consumers, provides a realistic context for the work-related curriculum, enhances opportunities for employment at all levels of attainment and can contribute to a competitive UK economy.

GCSE results in design and technology: food show an upward trend in quality and quantity. OFSTED reports that examples of excellent work can be found in food classrooms around the UK.

Successful GCSE students are now asking "What next?" Edexcel is running a pilot A-level food technology course, and three new A-level specifications are going through the approval process at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. So the gap between Year 11 and higher education is being filled. This is particularly encouraging as almost all food technology graduates go into jobs. The food industry is, after all, the UK's major employer.

So, why didn't Education Secretary David Blunkett take notice of the three out of four respondents to a recent QCA review who said food should be compulsory at key stage 3?

If we want a curriculum that will be relevant to the 21st century, and encourages creativity, innovation and informed consumers, design and technology: food has a valuable contribution to make. The educational rationale has been established. Why not come clean and admit it was a financial decision? Or was it ever a serious question at all?

Stephanie Valentine is education director of the British Nutrition Foundation

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