The role of a Food Teacher is key to getting younger generations to be passionate about food, nutrition and cooking. The role, which is sometimes called a Food Technology or Home Economics teacher, can be considered a Green Job as a major part of the role involves teaching children about where the food on our plates comes from.
“It’s not simply cooking for us,” Louise T Davies, Founder of the self-help group for food teachers, The Food Teachers Centre, notes on a recent Table Talk podcast episode. “Students need to have an understanding of what’s happening and why.
“A teacher’s got to have an eye to keeping up with everything that’s going on and not standing still.”
Being a Food Teacher is also key for igniting the younger generation’s interest working in the food and beverage sector, which has a significant demand for jobs at the moment.
As Louise highlights: “The food industry itself is our biggest employer in this country, and they have a skills shortage at all levels, from technician right up to needing good undergraduates and postgraduates at managerial level. There’s plenty of jobs required in the future and we need to come up with a way of filling that gap to help the UK economy grow.”
One of the most valuable aspects of the role is that you have the opportunity to let children explore different foods and discover new ways to eat healthily as well as sustainably. As childhood obesity soars in the UK to the highest level seen since the start of the pandemic, there has never been a more urgent time to help children learn about more nutritious, healthy and affordable eating options. Food teaching courses allow children to gain access to skills and experiences they might not receive at home, but will remember for years to come as they jump into adulthood after finishing school.
What are the job responsibilities?
- Teaching children how to cook healthy, nutritious meals, skills which will stay with them for life, and help them embrace a healthier diet and lifestyle in the long run
- Making children aware about the impact food can have on the environment, and introducing them to more ethical food and drink choices
- Delivering practical and theory-based teaching that will help students succeed at Key Stage 3 and 4 levels (GCSE)
- Attending department meetings, school training days, parents’ evenings
- Help outside of teaching hours at after-school or breakfast clubs
- Preparing for lessons ahead of time for different age groups, with different levels of experience
- Marking homework, giving feedback and keeping note of students’ progression in the course
- Taking on other roles occasionally, such as a form tutor, supporting pupils with personal and academic challenges
- Being up to date on your subject and making sure what you’re teaching children about food and nutrition is relevant for the future
Who might your employers be?
As a Food Teacher you will most likely be employed by a secondary school. These can be state schools which receive support from the Government or Local Authorities, such as academies, multi-academy trusts, grammar schools, free schools, foundation or voluntary schools, which don’t all have to follow the national curriculum, or community schools which do. They could also be independent schools, which are registered with the Government but can create their own curriculum for students.
While working for a school in the UK is the most likely option, once fully qualified, teachers also have the potential to work elsewhere at international schools, on an exchange programme with schools in the USA or Australia, or by taking on voluntary teaching roles in developing areas of the world.
What qualifications do you need?
Before anything else, you must have a university degree in a related subject to food such as dietetics, nutrition, or food science, as well as GCSEs in English and Maths with a minimum of a grade C.
You will also need to either have a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The former lets you teach within England Scotland and Wales as well as abroad, while the other allows you to work solely in England and Wales. You can study either of these courses at a university or through a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training course (SCITT). Both courses last around one academic year from September to June, and you can start working in a teaching role from 1 July 1.
The SCITT programme is available across the UK, with training typically taking place at a school. Some regions which deliver this training include:
The PGCE is a more academic qualification, which is offered at a range of universities across the country. During the course you will be able to take on two placements at separate schools to develop your teacher training. When studying for the role, it is important to bear in mind that food and nutrition is typically taught in secondary school as part of a wider ‘Design and Technology’ course which also can include teaching textiles design, product design as well as Computer-Aided-Design (CAD). Food and nutrition-related courses are still not on the A-level curriculum in the UK either. Some PGCE courses which are currently on offer in the country include:
- Secondary Design and Technology: Food, Textiles and Product Design at Birmingham City University
- Secondary Design and Technology with QTS at Manchester Metropolitan University
- Home Economics with Food & Nutrition, and Nutrition & Food Science at Ulster University
- Secondary Design & Technology at Goldsmiths University of London
After completing the SCITT or PGCE qualification you will have to have to complete a Newly Qualified Teacher qualification during your first year of teaching. You will be supported by a mentor throughout the year. Once this training is complete, you are fully qualified to teach.
Getting into food teaching in recent times has been quite a popular career switch for people already working in the food industry, says Louise, who saw a lot of people coming into the sector: “From hospitality and cheffing, particularly during Covid when job security was an issue.
“I’m delighted to find there’s so many different ways that people can come into food teaching…there’s a number of ways that suits all sorts of different people from different backgrounds to come into teaching now,” she says.
What is the salary like?
According to the latest data available from Reed.co.uk, the starting salary for a food teacher can range from around £26,000 and reach up to £40,000 depending on your level of experience. Temporary posts are also available for Food Teachers across the country, currently ranging from £120 to £190 a day, depending on the location of the school and the personal level of experience.
Where will you be working?
At a school in a classroom, teaching children from the age of 11 to 16 (Years 7 to 11, pre-Sixth Form). Depending on the school, you might not teach in one single classroom, and may need to move equipment around. It is likely that the school you teach in will have at least one room for practical lessons which you will teach most of those lessons in. Working days will often start a lot earlier than other teachers due to spaces needing to be set up ahead of lessons without help from assistants or technicians.
What’s the career progression like?
Ways to progress in this role include becoming head of the department (Design & Technology in the case of a Food Teacher), or a head of year, where you’ll take on a lot more responsibilities such as managing the day-to-day operations in the school, often developing the school’s curriculum and leading staff and pupils. Other roles to progress include becoming a lead practitioner, where you are paid more to share your teaching experience and skills with other teachers through coaching, assessments and mentoring, and general improvement of the school.
The job also gives you a range of transferable skills that could allow you to make a complete career jump, says Louise.“You’re there presenting to young people, you’re making it fun, you’re a good communicator… those things do go hand in hand with teaching.”
Is there a demand for this job?
Sadly, food and nutrition courses are currently facing major challenges in UK schools, with a general decline in GCSE uptake of the subject too. It is also currently the only national course to not have an A-Level. As a result, there is a shortage of teachers in the profession, and therefore a huge demand for people to fill these gaps. The more food teachers in the education system, the more children can learn about the importance of food in their everyday lives, not only so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle, but also so they can develop a curiosity about where their food comes from and the impact it has on the environment. Who knows, you might even inspire them to start thinking about a future career in the food and drinks sector!