By Clarissa Thomas, Head of Food Science
Food Science? Is that Domestic Science, Home Economics or Food Technology? In the 30-odd years I have been teaching I have witnessed, not only how the subject has changed its name, but how it has evolved over the years.
Apart from a blip in the 1990s, when the National Curriculum was introduced and Home Economics became Food Technology, the subject has fundamentally set out to teach practical skills and give nutritional guidance, which encourages pupils to be well-equipped for life. Many view the subject as only a practical one and not academic, not helped by the stereotypical impressions of food lessons only being about rock buns and fairy cakes. This may be the experience of just a few, but far more would have learnt excellent skills to last a lifetime and perhaps would have encouraged them to pursue a career in food (in dietetics, sports science, journalism, teaching or environmental health to name a few examples).
Over the last few years, with concerns over obesity and rising cases of type 2 diabetes (the recent report from Public Health England shows that the average 10 year-old has already eaten 18 years’ worth of sugar!), Food Technology was once again made into a compulsory subject in mainstream school, but usually as a short course. A much more challenging and academic GCSE course has enabled pupils to develop high-level cooking skills, as well as providing them with scientific knowledge of ingredients and how they function.
This has been welcomed at Ipswich High School after the bleak Food Technology years where the focus was on the manufacturing and packaging of food products, which many pupils disliked and could not see as relevant to their lives (unless they wanted to enter the world of food product development).
Here at Ipswich High School we have always strived to create a food culture where pupils have a desire to cook imaginatively whilst demonstrating an awareness of food provenance, sustainability and, most importantly, an understanding of healthy eating habits.
The pupils at Ipswich High School are in the fortunate position of not only being able to study Food Science in the most beautiful and well-equipped cookery room in Suffolk (in my opinion), but have a full and varied curriculum in Year 7 and 8. The subject has grown in popularity and many pupils continue into Year 9, with numbers growing for the GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition course. This is not a soft option and the results for 2018 show that it is as hard to pass as English and Maths, but here at IHS we achieved a 100% pass rate with many pupils gaining top grades.
We also run, as part as the Sixth Form Orbit Programme, a very successful ‘cooking up a storm course’ preparing students for independent life. The students enjoy cooking a variety of delicious, but low budget, healthy dishes and this has proved to be a very popular course.
Cooking is one of the oldest arts and is the ultimate way to give joy to all. But more than that, the preparation and understanding of a balanced diet is crucial in today’s society and Food Science is perhaps more important than ever.