This is a blog about Food Technology, and the need for celebrities in the public eye to support vital aspects of the school curriculum.
This sort of nonsense makes my blood boil … Tweet this is you are fuming?
In an article published in The Guardian (19.5.15), Jamie Oliver has attacked the standard of cookery classes.
“Cookery lessons in school have always been rubbish.”
However, I could be a fool to ignore that this is a case of low-blow journalism … and I know Jamie has not written the article.
I admire Jamie Oliver for his past work and national focus on healthy school meals in the UK and the USA. However, my views are now tarnished with this meagre assumption that the quality of teaching and learning in food technology classrooms across the UK can be summed up in one simple academic term:
The article says;
” … perhaps the quality I relish most is [Oliver’s] stubbornness, his absolute refusal to shut up when he cares about something.”
Well, I’m going to join in too!
I’m stubborn. I care about this too. And I ain’t going to shut-up about it! …
If Jamie Oliver disagrees with the headlines from this article, he should say so and state that the journalist has used a flippant statement, made about a personal experience as verbatim.
I teach food technology. I’ve taught year 7 students, the process of making cup-cakes as well as complicated and self-selected menus. All managed with a group of 20-25 students in 1 and 1/2 hour lessons. By the end of these lessons, I feel knackered. However, teaching food technology gets my mojo going. I love it and so do the kids!
It’s never too complicated because the demands on curriculum time (with design technology) across the school is precious. Resources are always a rare commodity. It makes teaching a practical subject very challenging.
Here is a photo of Jamie Oliver teaching; well, teaching a group of well-behaved children for a photo-shoot as part of his new FoodRevolution campaign! Barely 6 kids in sight!
Image: Tristan Fewings
The article goes on to say;
” … on the subject of the government’s compulsory cookery lessons, Oliver says he’s still not happy: “The cookery lessons … are not measured or evaluated,” he said recently. “Not all teachers know what’s required. We are seeing everything from schools rewriting their entire curriculum around food to schools that say, ‘We do a bit of cooking … we make fairy cakes in year one.’”
To be fair, Oliver said;
“Just a little investment would go a long way and teachers need to know where they can go to get funding,” he told The Sunday Times.
Apart from Oliver asking kids on television; ‘do you like this?’ He’s never, ever really been measured by his student results? Or his pay determined by their grades? Or his boss (headteacher) determining the future of his (career) subject specialism based on the uptake, or reputation of the subject nationally/locally?
But, “why do kids need to know how to make fairy cakes?”
Why do we need to learn algebra? Or connectives and verbs? Or anything and everything about British History from 200 years ago?!
Well Mr. Oliver, every subject; every subject needs foundation and context. An acquisition of basic knowledge is required before skills can develop into deeper level of knowledge and challenge; and then developed. That’s why Mr. Oliver. Coupled with the demands of a jam-packed timetable; the destruction of creative subjects by Michael Gove and his EBaccalaureate curriculum. Ah voila! A broad and balanced diet that de-values the importance of life-skills and the demolition of creative subjects that support a vast quantity of British culture and industry. Creative qualifications that support many children succeeding in our society.
I have previously blogged why we must Support the Arts in schools.
- Add to the recipe that food technology teachers are constrained by a 19th century model of schooling.
- Add the school bell, insinuating on every hour, that their lessons must cease and students must stop learning on the sound of a klaxon. Then move on elsewhere. Read my popular blog, White Noise.
- Add to this recipe, ingredients, lack of training, crumbling classrooms and investment in resources/machinery.
- Add to this, a lack of respect for a subject simply because of Ofsted and government priority/focus/measures.
- Equates to a poor reputation and respect for a subject stooped in a high degree of knowledge, precision, timing and skill.
Hark, say the academics of the world. ‘Food Technology stooped in rigour?’ “Nonsense!”, Michael Gove exclaims!
Oliver reminisces on his times in food technology lessons from the 1990s, when at the time, British cuisine was on the rise and food cuisine was far from the realms that we know today.
Internationally and/or on the television, or even in the hands of Joe-Public who can now become the restaurateur, the master-chef and wannabes-cook, food is now on the map. And this is now thanks to the likes of Jamie Oliver and countless other media-chefs and television programmes who have brought food and food technology into our living rooms and to our kitchens!
We can now all cook better.
But, please; do not blame poor food lessons on hard-working food technology teachers up and down the country.
- Large classes that exceed the health and safety limits of the room.
- Timetable constraints and 1-hour long practicals offset against leadership who cannot match the timetable against other subjects.
- Little money for equipment and machinery.
- A massive reduction in timetabled time allowed for food to focus on the League Table EBaccalaureate subjects. A subject elbowed out of the curriculum!
- A dwindling reputation due to government, Ofsted and political preference in exchange for academic rigour.
- No budget for ingredients and an expectation that parents provide for this lesson when they do not for any other national curriculum subject.
- No technician support to set up the lesson (unlike Science!).
Don’t say that we are ‘rubbish.’
You try teaching 30 kids with your hands tied to the demands of progress, lesson gradings, performance and behaviour policies and still get the kids to churn out a batch of cup-cakes in a rusty-old oven in less than 50 minutes!
Go on Jamie, you ‘ave a go!
Expertise and Experience:
Louise Davies, a national leader in food education who advises the government on D&T national curriculum and examinations, responded to the article and said;
“I find this level of journalism an appalling misrepresentation, whatever happened to researching any article.’
I’ve no way of knowing if this is true’.
One visit to any school nearby … would show that the current food lesson are high quality, what young people need to improve their current diet and skills (they even vote it as one of their best and favourite lessons!) and developing some of the most valuable skills and knowledge they will need in later life, everyday. Food Teachers currently need your support, the misrepresentation and clever headlines over the years have undermined this brilliant profession and worthwhile vocation …
… Teachers leave in droves and no-one signs up for the vacancies we have all over the country – where does that leave us without qualified food teachers? I have worked in this profession for 30 years; things are positive at last – we have compulsory national curriculum, a great new GCSE course and a government that backs this up with a new Ofsted Framework.
Why would he (Jamie) exaggerate?’ Let’s think about that: is this to do with another headline? The problem is not with the teachers – ask them, it’s with the SCHOOL and FUNDING structures. Teachers are now given 60 minute lessons; which is hard to show a small child how to make something worthwhile. Its made even harder when you are given classes of 28 pupils who have not cooked much at all; it’s harder when the teacher is expected to also do all the cleaning because the budget cuts have removed their technician and the person who [organised the food shopping for most students living below the poverty line].
Despite this, teachers do a GOOD job. They love to do a GREAT job, but these headlines never help them uncover the REAL issues. Talk to a food teacher. Let them show you what their pupils achieve. They are worthy of your support rather than ridicule.” (Comment here)
Well, you can tweet this blog until it irritates the pants off of the people who manage @JamieOliver‘s social media account. It just takes a tweet here and also here, for them to see this blog once or twice. You could also tweet the journalist, @MsRachelCooke who – in favour of a story – has damaged the reputation of thousands of Food Technology teachers in exchange for a little dose of flattery from the Naked Chef!
There is already a Change.org webpage petitioning Jamie Oliver;
“Food Teachers around the UK challenge Jamie Oliver to come and visit us in secondary schools and to see exactly what amazing work we do for our students’ health through teaching Food.
We need Jamie Oliver to be our ambassador in pushing our subject!”