Louise T Davies, lead food technology consultant at the D&T Association and founder of the Food Teachers Centre, writes:


From September 2014, all schools that follow the national curriculum will have to teach food as part of design and technology, including a new section on cooking and nutrition in the design and technology programme of study at KS1, KS2, and KS3. The desire to address obesity issues and encourage healthier lifestyles was formalised in the School Food Plan; chapter two outlines compulsory cooking and equipping schools.


More than just cooking


With all the headlines talking about ‘cooking’, it’s a mistake to think that teachers are simply teaching a set of recipes to be followed step by step. This is not true. The cooking and nutrition section has clear themes and it sets out the knowledge and skills to be taught, which are:


  • Nutrition and healthy eating
  • Feeding themselves affordably and well
  • Where food comes from
  • Characteristics of ingredients (food science)
  • Cooking a repertoire of predominantly savoury dishes - for a healthy varied diet
  • Learning cooking techniques, sensory skills, and being able to adapt and use their own recipes,


These programmes of study are slim, so teachers are encouraged to look to the progression framework provided by the D&T Association and the recently updated UK Core Food Competences to understand the detail.


In addition, pupils should bring the knowledge and skills together and apply them to develop recipes and dishes that are suitable for a specific person or situation. When designing with food, recipe modification to meet nutritional criteria is a key skill, and teachers are encouraged to leave other aspects of designing, such as sketching and drawing, to their D&T colleagues working in other materials. The designing and making section of the programme of study has home, leisure, health, agriculture and industry listed as contexts for designing and making, which opens up many opportunities for teaching about growing, farming, product development, food science, catering and so on, as well as developing meals for themselves and their families.


There is a lot of discussion about the acceptable range of cooking techniques and recipes that demonstrate them – we advise ensuring that there is sufficient time for practical food in the scheme of work, and that pupils cook things appropriate to their culture and values, that meet nutritional guidelines, help them to feed themselves within a budget and are useful to them now and in later life. There is not a statutory number of hours for cooking, although there is an expectation that this will be regular, probably every week, with a greater focus on healthier recipes, practical learning and less paper-based designing or research activities.


For many secondary schools, this is current practice and they will not need to change their focus, but they may need to change their assessment strategies to assess the knowledge and skills in the cooking and nutrition section, as well as the designing and making process. The 2008 level descriptions will need extensive revision for use in food teaching.


Unfortunately for some teachers, high-quality lessons are still prevented by the same issues identified by Ofsted in their last detailed food technology report in 2006. These issues include food’s low status in schools, lack of technician time, insufficient budget for ingredients and class sizes that exceed health and safety limits facing very short practical lessons.


School Food Champions


Those schools and senior management teams that recognise the contribution of food teaching to the whole school and pupils’ wellbeing will score well with Ofsted. Many schools recognise how this can positively impact upon attainment in all subjects and improved behaviour.


These schools have resolved the issues that have held back high quality teaching in the past, namely:


-          Improving food’s low status in the school by adopting a whole school food approach,

-          Employing technicians so that teachers can focus on teaching and avoid low-level tasks such as oven cleaning (we don’t ask our PE teachers to clean the changing rooms, do we?)

-          Having a school policy on the provision of ingredients and using Pupil Premium funds for those pupils who cannot afford to join in the lesson

-          Offering longer lessons for practical work so that pupils are more often able to make things from scratch and use fresh ingredients


An important link between food lesson and the quality of the food served for school lunch is the School Food Champion Programme, which has been launched recently by the D&T Association, in partnership with British Nutrition Foundation and Eagle Services Solutions. This Department for Education programme puts the pupils at the centre of redesigning their school lunches to meet the new food standards and to produce recipes they will want to eat for lunch. We are looking for passionate food teachers to join the programme.