Food – a fact of life training - a personal perspective

This year, 2021, sees the 30th anniversary of the Food – a fact of life (FFL) programme. Certainly something to celebrate!

This year, 2021, sees the 30th anniversary of the Food – a fact of life (FFL) programme. Certainly something to celebrate!

During this time, many thousands of teachers and support staff across the UK have received training in a variety of formats, all focusing on improving food and nutrition education in schools.  As a trainee and then a practising teacher myself, I had direct experience of the personal and professional value of FFL training in my career. Now I help plan and run the training!

In the first instance, FFL training consisted of face-to-face conferences and practical workshops. In the past few years, there has been a greater shift from regional face-to-face training to more online and virtual training, enabling many more teachers to attend from the comfort of their school desk or sitting room. In 2019, online courses were launched, and to date nearly 3.500 teachers have registered for our food science courses (Functional properties of food, Food spoilage, hygiene and safety and Sensory science).

In March 2020, FFL training evolved again due to the first national lockdown. We quickly reviewed our training programme and instead of the usual face-to-face training we were all used to, everything was moved on-line and virtual. This did not deter teachers, in fact quite the opposite, and, between April 2020 and the end of March 2021, 1,876 teachers registered for Food – a fact of life training, which included virtual regional conferences, practical food skills workshops and webinars.

This was a new way of working for everyone but the practical workshops were a high point for me personally and a huge learning curve!  I am used to teaching practical food skills to pupils, and also to adults through previous FFL face-to-face workshops, but doing so online from my home kitchen was a totally new experience!

The impact on teachers as a result of the FFL training has been really satisfying to see. Each event is evaluated immediately afterwards and the combined figures for the evaluations of all FFL training during 2020/21 showed that 96% of the attendees that responded to the evaluation survey, said they felt more informed as a result of attending the training. 97% of the workshops and webinar attendees that responded to the evaluation survey rated the overall experience 4 or 5 out of 5 and 95% reported to feel more confident about/to teach the subject.  

We also follow up with a three month post-training evaluation survey and of the webinar attendees who responded to the follow-up evaluation, 91% agreed or strongly agreed that they had used the training provided to update their lessons and/or resources and 84% agreed or strongly agreed that they had used the training provided to update their teaching practice.

Statistics tell us only one part of the story, so we decided to speak to teachers to find out why they chose FFL training, what courses/events they had attended or undertaken, whether they felt more confident/competent afterwards, and how they have used the training in their classrooms.

Here is what four teachers told us about their experiences:

Rhian Roach, specialist secondary food teacher at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, Wales, undertook the Food spoilage, hygiene and safety online course. When asked why she decided to undertake this training with FFL, Rian commented, “It was during lockdown when I had more time on my hands, it was also free and I felt that a refresh on a topic is always beneficial. Especially when you have taught something for so long and with no face-to-face courses to tell you about any changes, it’s good to keep up to date.”  Rhian also said that the training improved her competence and confidence, especially with her 14-16 and 16-18 classes.

Edel Mc Eniff, a PGCE Home Economics student in Northern Ireland, attended a practical food skills workshop in October 2020 organised in conjunction with the University of Ulster.  Edel commented, “I found this so useful and beneficial that I signed up for a second workshop in January. I decided to undertake these in order to brush up on my practical skills, but equally to gain ideas on how to best deliver a practical lesson with demonstrations of key skills throughout. I found it useful seeing how to best demonstrate and explain key skills to pupils, as simply as possible. The training certainly improved my confidence in demonstrating such skills, whilst explaining the reasoning and science behind certain skills in the kitchen.“

Nicky Hutton, a primary higher level teaching assistant and food technology lead at The Portsmouth Grammar Junior School attended the Adverse reactions to food and managing allergens in the classroom webinar and said that she has, “already put some of the training I have had into practice. Although I am aware of the children in school who have allergies, this gave me much more of an insight into how to manage allergens in the classroom and what I should be specifically looking out for.“ Nicky also used the Food teaching progression chart (5-11 years) that was shared in the practical food skills workshop that she attended to review her theory and practical lessons.

Michaela Ryan, a secondary food and nutrition teacher at Wellington School, undertook the Sensory science online course. When asked if she would recommend the course to colleagues Michaela said, “Yes, because it is very easy to follow, can be completed at times to suit you and contains useful information which is presented in a clear, easy to understand way. It was a bonus that it was free too. My school doesn’t always have funding available for CPD courses so being able to do free courses is a huge incentive.”

I think that a final comment from Nicky sums up the impact of FFL training as much as the statistics from our evaluations: “If FFL training is something you are thinking about, then definitely do it! I have gained a wealth of information from the training that I have done. It has improved my confidence and I feel more confident to teach my pupils. Thank you to all involved.”

Since April 2021, we have held a masterclass focusing on sausage making and a webinar on growing in schools with the ever enthusiastic Joe Mann and Haydn Bettles. This is just the start of a great year of training, so look out for our 30th anniversary conference, Food education: Back to the future?, practical food skills masterclasses on bread, cheese making and food presentation, practical workshops, and a training pack around practical food skill progression and recipes.

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