I wrote yesterday and on Tuesday about the Governments apparent failure to read its own report on sugar related matters (Public Health England’s “Sugar reduction: the evidence for action”) and their unwillingness to impose a sugar tax on unhealthy food. One vital element that has been identified by both Conservative MPs and the Industry body, the Food and Drinks Federation is the need for greater understanding and education on issues of nutrition. Ian Wright Director General of the FDF argues we lack the understanding to participate in the debate on sugar and Nadhim Zahawi MP speaking on Question Time suggests that it is not a tax that is needed, but instead we need to be educated about food. As I wrote yesterday the Government has decided to withdraw the only A level on food related issues available to students from next September. This is clearly counter productive in the context of a society which appears to lack the knowledge to engage in debates about what we eat.
The decision by OFQUAL to abolish the A Level is a matter that is explained through a freedom of Information response to a lady called Sally Connor. In her question she quotes from OFQUAL’s own document:
“Food technology has been removed as an endorsed route within design and technology, as feedback from higher education practitioners and subject experts indicated that it did not fit comfortably within this subject. We have decided not to develop a separate food A level, as we have done at GCSE. There is already a number of high-quality vocational qualifications available post-16 in food-related subjects, including those with a focus on food nutrition. For those students wanting to progress to a career in food, there are career-specific vocational qualifications, for example in confectionery/butchery. For students wishing to progress to a degree in food nutrition or food science, top universities offering food science/nutrition related courses have told us they are looking for students with science qualifications for entry to their courses, rather than food-related A levels.”
Sally chose to use her FOI request to ask the names of those who OFQUAL had spoken to in their discussions regarding this rather significant change to our national curriculum on a matter that both the Government and Food Industry acknowledge is a matter of national lack. The response was:
The information you requested is not held by this Department. As part of the development process for this qualification, we have met with and spoken to a wide range of stakeholders and subject experts – including teachers, representatives from higher education and subject associations. The expert drafters who have led on drafting the design and technology content have also had numerous discussions with various subject experts. Departmental officials were not involved in all of these conversations. The consultation on 2017 GCSE and A level subjects closed on 24 September and we are currently analysing feedback. We will be publishing our response this winter.
This is clearly an issue that needs to be re-examined and perhaps the consultation which is currently being analysed will provide enough data to help OFQUAL to reverse their decision. However just in case that is not the outcome, we need to ensure that Government Ministers like Nick Gibb are made aware of the statements from the FDF and his colleague Nadhim Zahawi along with the rest of us who believe that denying A Level Students an Academic Course in Food related matters is a mistake. A final few words from Martha Collison who competed in last years Great British Bakeoff
“scrapping food A level makes no sense and without it my passion would not have been fuelled. So important!”