A biotechnical focus motivates students, says Josephine Calt.
Selly Park technology college's food technology department uses a range of information technology and food processing equipment at all key stages. Throughout the units of work emphasis is placed on practical food handling, together with food hygiene and the development of health-promoting products.
Students begin by analysing their own dietary needs and comparing them with what they actually eat. This raises awareness of one of the main functions of any food product: to meet the nutritional needs of the consumer. From here they can go on to target other groups, including those with special requirements brought about by food allergies, clinical conditions or cultural restrictions.
Through a planned programme of work which progressively develops students' understanding of sensory analysis, they learn the importance of understanding qualities which affect the organs of sense, and apply these "organoleptic" qualities to whatever they are designing and making. Students regard sensory testing as a natural part of food technology work and automatically use sensory testing equipment to reflect industrial practice. Older students are encouraged to map their results using a spreadsheet and to use the same software to model production costs.
The department policy of inclusion means it provides all the materials, including foodstuff, so all students hve equal learning opportunities. They really do see the work as technological. This is reflected in their use of industrial language to describe food-handling processes, equipment and procedures.
The approach ensures that the students have a good understanding of specification, design development, prototyping and methods of production. This is always underpinned by practical food-handling activities. Through sponsorship, the department has acquired desktop food processing equipment, including a pasteuriser, cheese vat and plate freezer.
The pasteuriser and cheese vat are used in a variety of projects throughout key stage 3. In Year 7, for example, the students use the pasteuriser in an assignment to make, test and redesign a cool milk drink for teenagers. The first stage of the project is to investigate thermal processing. At the same time they work in groups to evaluate existing products, consider the nutritional content of a variety of milks and come up with novel design ideas, including a dairy-free product.
The focus on biotechnology continues when the students use the cheese vat to develop a soft cheese product, which is then used to make prototype cheese cakes. Students are highly motivated by the use of this equipment and many of them go on to use the plate freezer in their GCSE major project.
Josephine Calt is a food technology teacher at Selly Park technology college in Birmingham