Food bosses backlash over DfE’s A level ditch

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Dropping A level food technology could have serious consequences for the industry
Dropping A level food technology could have serious consequences for the industry

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Food and drink industry leaders have slammed government proposals to ditch food technology at A level, claiming it could seriously damage the sector, while Twitter erupted in a storm of support to keep the qualification.

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 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?”


100% of respondents said "no" to removing A level food technology

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 “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 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.

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Posted by Clare syer,

There are 244 food based degrees listed on the Guardians University League tables this year. i would judge that 60% require sciences at A level. What about the rest?
Moreover bright students who are interested in food need a route that informs and engages them. Science teachers do not have the knowledge about the food industry and the wide range of options it offers for graduates that we food technology teachers have. 6 of our food A level students are about to read food based degrees at Reading, Leeds and Sheffield. They all decided to apply at the end of their AS food studies.
Considering that 50% of graduates don't get appropriate jobs whilst a local international food company in Spalding struggle to fill their graduate trainee vacancies?
Then their are post A level apprenticeships.3 students from my school have taken these up, 2 are now reading food at Sheffield. The 3rd has became an Apprentice of the year.
Surely there is room and a need for a myriad of routes in the UK's huge food and drinks industry to attract right passionate people to a range of engaging and rewarding careers.

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Posted by L Borg,

Thank you thank you thank you for putting this issue into the spotlight! As a good teacher I have a number of concerns about no food A-level in the future.
1. While I agree science is a very valid subject for degrees (NOT vocations) in food, I do believe that it does not equip students with the practical knowledge, expertise and experience to apply the theory. This can only come from continued experience...
2. Where is the support by gov to tackle nutrition issues in the UK?! This sends the message that nutrition is not important as it is the only national curriculum subject without an A-level.
3. Where will the future food teachers come from?! GCSE experience is simply not going to be enough - there will be a shortage - just as there currently is, however now it is compulsory to teach food until the end of KS3.
4. Who are the 'sources' the government refer to?! The Food Teachers Centre have investigated this and we are still no clearer as to who the government refer to as being their experts in industry that have said a food A-level is not required?
5. Where is the voice for students of the future and supporting their creative as well as scientific interests in food? They are the real losers in all of this - another generation of talented students who may not get the exposure to Britians largest manufacturing industry and something Britian leads the world in.

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Government Manifesto

Posted by SAM,

A Britain Standing Tall in the world

• We will improve skills training
• We will continue to take your mental health as seriously as your physical health
• We will help you fight food poverty
• We will support you and your family to stay healthy
• We will take action to reduce childhood obesity and continue to promote clear food information
• We will lead the world in fighting cancer
• We will provide young people with the skills to succeed
• We will champion our farmers and food producers
• We believe that teaching is a highly skilled profession
• We believe that there is no substitute for a rigorous academic curriculum to secure the best from every pupil
• We will back you child’s teachers
• We are supporting the campaign of an independent College of Teaching to promote the highest standard of teaching and leadership

All these points are taken from the governments manifesto.If you wish to achieve all of these objectives, then please reinstate A level Food as a rigorous and challenging subject which will educate future generations in a holistic way.

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