Food Education in schools: why do some headteachers make this a priority?

O'ROURKE, Jason (2021). Food Education in schools: why do some headteachers make this a priority? Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis concerns the reasons why some primary school headteachers in England include Food Education so prominently in their school’s pedagogical curriculum. School leaders are seen as the ‘architects’ of transforming the food culture within a school setting. The current inclusion of Food Education in the English National Curriculum focuses on teaching children about how food choices can have a positive impact on their own physical health and well-being. My study investigates if there are other reasons why a set of recognised leaders in Food Education include this learning focus in their school’s curriculum despite the fact that this is not an area for which they are held accountable. This qualitative research study is based on semi-structured interviews with ten primary school headteachers in England. The responses from the face-to-face semi-structured interviews with the headteachers are submitted to Reflective Thematic Analysis which leads to two contributions to the literature, summarised below. The theoretical framework takes a social constructionist approach, focusing on the interpretation of the school leaders’ views, experiences and practices of including Food Education into their school’s curriculum. My findings reveal that the headteachers who do include Food Education in their school’s pedagogical curriculum do not use it solely to support the healthy eating agenda. By shaping the school ethos and culture through the communication of their personal and professional values and vision, they are also able to extend the wider benefits of Food Education to positively influence other aspects of the school and the wider community. Their use of the ‘pedagogical curriculum’ as a stimulus has enabled them to enact what I call ‘pedagogical commensality’ which supports school connectedness and has the potential to have wide ranging benefits to both the children's academic and health outcomes and the wider community. Recommendations relate to government policy on incorporating learning about food in its broader context into the English National Curriculum. By including the social, cultural, political, environmental, aesthetic and sustainable benefits of food, schools could provide learning opportunities that extend beyond the narrow bio-pedagogical focus that Food Education currently occupies and could support key areas such as community cohesion, personal values development and inclusion. This has implications for the professional development of school leaders and the inclusion of Food Education curriculum in Initial Teacher Training programmes. This thesis claims new knowledge in relation to how Food Education can be used as an embodiment of the headteacher’s values-based leadership approach; and how ‘pedagogical commensality’ can be used as a tool to support the personal and social development of the children and the school community.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Coldwell, Michael [0000-0002-7385-3077]
Thesis advisor - Daniels, Karen
Thesis advisor - Wainwright, Jonathan [0000-0003-4769-1147]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Mike Coldwell / Supervisors: Dr. Karen Daniels and Dr. Jonathan Wainwright
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2021 17:14
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2023 14:36

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