Government proposals published last month (July) by the Department for Education (DfE), which are currently under consultation, would remove A level food technology as an endorsed subject within design technology.
Industry bosses and teachers told FoodManufacture.co.uk the move could be dangerous and would increase the skills gap by preventing young people entering the food and drink industry.
In a poll of readers, 100% of those asked said food A level should not be dropped from the curriculum.
One reader asked: “The food and drink manufacturing sector is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK – why is the government destroying its future prospects?”
Another reader said: “The loss of a food-based A level option would be short-sighted, pushing more students down the pure science route and potentially steering them away from a food-based career.”
A GCSE and A level food technology teacher, who did not want to be named, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Dropping food technology at A level will have a big impact upon the food and drink industry as one of the biggest employment sectors.
“I worry that this decision will also impact on food technology in the curriculum being taught at key stages three and four. It is important that children learn basic cooking skills as well as knowledge of nutrition,” the teacher added.
On Twitter, Gary King, the assistant headteacher at a Devon school, said he was looking forward to teaching A level food technology this September, but worried for how much longer the subject would exist.
A level food technology courses provided students with the opportunity to explore food in a scientific and nutritional context, said British Nutrition Foundation education and IT director Roy Ballam.
“If there’s no food at A level and a pupil wishes to continue to study food, the only route would be vocational,” he added.
It was worrying
The Food and Drink Federation also said it was worrying that a subject which would encourage young people to pursue a career in the food industry could be ditched by the government.
Removing it would add to the recruitment problems the industry already faced, a spokeswoman said. The industry would need more than 109,000 new recruits by 2022, she added.
However, some FoodManufacture.co.uk readers sympathised with the DfE’s plans to drop the subject. One said: “Plenty of people took degrees in food science and technology before A levels in the subject were ever dreamt of.
“Vocational A level courses limit young peoples’ knowledge-base and potentially restrict their future career choices.”
A DfE spokesperson said the reforms to GCSE and A levels would ensure all pupils left education with the knowledge and skills they needed to progress further and on to higher education.
“There are a number of high-quality vocational qualifications in food-related subjects. We have carried out a review of vocational qualification to ensure they are robust, fit for purpose and valued by employers.”
What the DfE said:
- We are clear that A levels must equip students for higher education, and a number of universities have been clear that they value the sciences for entry to food nutrition/science courses.
- Feedback from higher education practitioners and subject experts indicated that food technology did not fit comfortably within an endorsed route within design and technology, as feedback from higher education it did not fit comfortably within this subject.
- The content for food preparation and nutrition GCSE will provide students with both scientific knowledge and practical cookery expertise and will be a valuable stepping stone for young people wishing to develop their skills, interests and careers paths in food-related professions.
- For those students wanting to progress to a career in food, there are career-specific vocational qualifications, for example in confectionery/butchery.
Meanwhile, here is a selection of our favourite tweets about the DfE’s plans to drop food tech at A level.