Home economics is “to serious risk of disappearing” from secondary schools, a Scottish teachers’ union said after an investigation to assess the subject’s health.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) found that more than a third of respondents had seen the number of home economics teachers in their school decrease in recent years.
Some said their school did not offer home economics at all.
SSTA General Secretary Seamus Searson, whose union will address issues of the subject at its annual conference this week, said: “Home economics as a subject is in serious danger of disappearing from secondary school timetables, due to not only because of the shortage of home economics teachers, but also because of the lack of support from local authorities and headteachers.”
The survey was completed by members of 190 schools, just over half of the 357 state secondary schools recorded in the Scottish Government’s last annual census.
It finds that 93 percent of respondents’ schools have home economics classes on their timetable, but 7 percent do not offer the subject, while 37 percent have seen a reduction in the number of home economics teachers. home economics over the past three years.
“Home economics is an essential part of the general school curriculum, but the experience of pupils varies across Scotland,” Mr Searson said.
In S1, the survey reveals that students’ experience of home economics ranges from 9% having no involvement in the subject, 45% having one hour per week, 44% having two hours and 6% receiving more two hours.
“This inconsistency is replicated in each of the age groups in the schools,” Searson said.
He added: “Home economics has for too long been seen as the ‘poor relation’ of the school curriculum. It has often been seen as less important in the rush to pass exams or too costly in terms of learning time. education and financial resources..”
In July 2021 the Scottish Government declared ccouncils would receive £6 million to ‘remove core program fees’, including home economics materials.
Mr. Searson said that hSome economics professors are usually not replaced when they leave, which puts additional pressure on the subject.
The SSTA survey also suggested that 43 percent of home economics teachers have no technical or adjunct support and that this support ranged from half-day to full-time assistance. Nearly a third of respondents have seen this support decrease over the past three years.
Mr Searson said the Scottish Government and local authorities must do something to help the home economy, adding: ‘Headteachers must be given the financial support and encouragement to secure the future of the home economy. in our secondary schools.
The SSTA’s annual conference, being held in Crieff this Friday and Saturday, will hear from the union’s wages and conditions of service committee that members are “alarmed by the inconsistent approach of local authorities to the place of home economics in the curriculum and the failure to ensure that all students…in secondary schools have their right to home economics fulfilled”.
Note also that the “excessive workload” of hSome economics teachers are “often ignored by local authorities”, raising fears of “discrimination against these specialized and mostly female teachers”.
The SSTA conference should call on the Scottish Government to put in place:
- A major review of home economics and its place in the curriculum.
- A major recruitment program for home economics teachers.
- More qualified technical support for domestical economy.
- A commitment by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers that the workload of home economics teachers will be recognised, and “measures adopted to ensure that the exploitation of domestical economy teachers stop”.
One survey respondent said than “trying to teach a full schedule of 27 periods per week as well as ordering food, preparing it, doing laundry, refilling soap, paper towels, etc. – as well as diminished behavior and respect – wreaks havoc on many domestical economy teachers,” adding, “I am personally on my knees and my mental health is suffering terribly.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “We expect local authorities and schools, who are responsible for setting their own curriculum, to meet the needs of the young people they serve and provide education and learning about food, nutrition, health and textiles.
“We are continuing to offer £20,000 scholarships for career changers to undertake teacher training in Stem subjects, including home economics, where demand for teachers is greatest.”
School president Jon Reid said headteachers had “long recognized the important contribution that home economics makes to the curriculum”, and that “it is an essential component of health and wellness programs”. Given that “food and drink and sustainable tourism are two of Scotland’s main growth sectors”, home economics too has “an important role to play in a school’s youth workforce development strategy”.
He added that it was “recognized that in some schools, in some parts of the country, it is indeed difficult to recruit for vacancies in home economics”, and that “some schools will have made temporary adjustments to their curriculum and delivery to accommodate to that “.
But he also said: “The availability of these subject matter specialists is improving, which we hope will continue in line with the work of the Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group, to meet increased demand for subject matter. from young people, which is strongly advocated by Scottish school leaders”.
Mr Reid said Home Economics had benefited from additional funding from the Scottish Government to remove the base fee from the scheme and ‘continues to benefit from a high level of entry across a range of different price points’, including from Foundation’s new learning frameworks.
He added: “There are also examples of very creative partnerships that exist between partner organizations and continuing education providers, ensuring appropriate pathways for progression, provision of subject matter and extra-curricular experiences for young people.”
Other comments from the SSTA survey include:
“Home Economics had to be removed from the S1 curriculum… Ironically we have staff and auxiliary help, but no housing, so the Home Economics curriculum has been devastated.”
“I have support from a school assistant, but I am completely exhausted at the end of the week. A lot of students want to follow the subject but there are [are] not enough staff to allow that.”
“Our department used to have six full-time home economics staff…We now have only two full-time staff. I feel the department is going downhill due to the lack of specialist teachers available. [and because] it is perceived as an expensive subject, for example, the cost of food/equipment repair.”
“The following courses been deleted [from the department]: health and food technology and fashion and textiles. We now mainly teach hospitality – it wasn’t part of my degree.”
“Our auxiliary is currently on long-term absence [so] My colleague and I generally spend at least 10 to 15 extra hours per week on the following activities: fgood order; lifting and storing a large number of crates [of food deliveries]; inventory control; food preparation; weigh and measure; buy food – at night in our time; cleaning refrigerators, etc. ; laundromat…so we don’t have time to do development work, follow-up completion, reporting, etc. All of this has to be done at our own pace at night.”
“Home economics is well supported in our school. Although the number of teachers has declined over the years, this is largely due to staff moving to other schools, promotions etc. and lack of of home economics teachers available. Management here understands the value and necessity of including practical subjects in the curriculum.”