Food technology in D&T: what do teachers’ and pupils’ in England really think?

Owen-Jackson, Gwyneth and Rutland, Marion (2013). Food technology in D&T: what do teachers’ and pupils’ in England really think? In: PATT27 Technology Education for the Future: A Play on Sustainability, University of Canterbury, The University of Waikato, pp. 415–422.


This paper presents the views and ideas for further developments of food technology of practicing teachers and pupils in secondary design and technology (D&T) in English schools. Prior research developed a modern conceptual curriculum framework for food technology, gathered stakeholders’ views and analysed lower secondary school (11-14 years) schemes of work and upper secondary (14-16 years) external examination specifications against the framework (Rutland, 2009; 2010a; 2010b; 2011;Rutland, Owen-Jackson, 2012a; 2012b).

The paper focuses on pupils aged 11-14 years and aims to find out what teachers and pupils:
1. currently understand as the role/purpose of food technology
2. understand to be involved in ‘designing’ with food
3. consider to be the key aspects of food technology
4. think that pupils should learn when studying food technology
5. consider what needs to be further developed in the teaching and learning of food technology.

The findings noted that both teachers and pupils thought that food technology should be taught, that designing was important as designing and making with food helped pupils be creative, understand how to make ‘healthier’ foods and provided links with future careers. The development of practical skills and nutritional knowledge were key aspects of food technology, though there was little evidence of teaching the implications of eating highly processed foods and nutritional intake measures. The teachers considered that understanding what ingredients do and aspects of food technologies were important, for example preserving foods and emerging technologies but there was little evidence of these being taught to the majority of pupils before the 14-16 year age range. All pupils thought that learning to cook (a life skill) and knowledge of food/ingredients were important aspects of food technology.

It was concluded that there was a tension between pupils learning to ‘cook’ and food technology as a relevant and rigorous twenty first century curriculum area. Lack of curriculum time was cited as a key issue by teachers and pupils, reflecting local rather than national concerns. A key finding was a huge variation in access to food technology for pupils aged 11-14 years. Some schools had been given extra curriculum time for subject enhancement courses, though this was at the expense of offering examination courses to older pupils. The findings of this small scale research in England are indicative rather than definitive. A larger investigation with an international dimension and the production a modern food technology teaching resources were recommended.

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