A Future in Food

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One school's involvement with the national A Future in Food programme has set their pupils on an inspiring journey into the world of work. Moira Stalker explains.

Milky Twist: Loaded with Mooberries is the milk-based smoothie made with blueberries and ice-cream impressively designed, developed and marketed by an S3 class of pupils at Eastbank Academy in Glasgow. 

It is also the outcome of a successful programme partnering businesses with schools to deliver key skills as part of the curriculum. 

The partnership was brokered through the A Future in Food schools programme. Run by the Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF), A Future in Food aims to promote career opportunities in the food and drink industry by encouraging employers to work with schools to deliver the curriculum using food as the context for learning. 

To date, the programme has worked with more than 3,000 pupils across Scotland, raising awareness with pupils of careers in industry and helping teachers to deliver the Curriculum for Excellence.

In the case of Eastbank Academy, the pupils were already working towards a National Progression Award (NPA) in enterprise and employability and decided that there was a need to encourage healthy eating and to promote an awareness of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk to their fellow pupils. 

This resulted in SFDF partnering the academy with milk producer, Robert Wiseman Dairies. The company was happy to support the school and the pupils with their endeavours.

The partnership took the pupils of Eastbank Academy on a learning journey which resulted in them growing as individuals and learning a range of key business and wider skills. Their experiences also benefited the businesses themselves as well as Help for Heroes and the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, which received money raised by the pupils through the project.

The NPA requires that the students set up and run their own business. The pupils held a business meeting and came up with the idea of developing Milky Twist as a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks. They also agreed that they wanted to make a profit on their product and donate 25 per cent of this to charity.

The process began with a visit to the dairy to allow the pupils to see how milk is delivered, processed, packaged and delivered to customers. For many of the pupils this was their first visit to a workplace and was quite an eye-opening experience for them.

During the visit the pupils met a variety of people, from operatives to managers, and asked them questions about their job roles and career paths in addition to finding out how a business works.

This initial visit and input from the company helped to focus the pupils on the task in hand, and they then set about developing their business structure and planning their product development. Discussions of individual skills and attributes allowed the group to assign job roles and responsibilities.

Wisemans provided access to a range of staff who visited the pupils at appropriate times to support their business growth and to provide advice and guidance – a service that would have cost thousands in the commercial world! Input included how to develop a product that will appeal to your target market, how to market and sell your product, including developing posters and associated marketing materials, how to run a profitable business, and how products are costed. The pupils also found out about the health benefits of milk and fruit.

The partnership provided the pupils with additional opportunities to extend their knowledge and understanding of the food chain. Through the Royal Highland Education Trust, the pupils visited Fernieshaw Farm in Lanarkshire. The farmer took the pupils through the milking process and the pupils saw the dairy cows and had their life-cycle explained – another eye-opener for the pupils.

During the visit, the farmer’s daughter, who was studying for a degree in nutrition and dietetics, spent time with the pupils helping them develop a greater understanding of the nutritional benefits of milk and berries.

The input from industry specialists and the visits to different workplaces took place at agreed times to support the curriculum delivery. The input from industry made the process “real” for the pupils. Teaching staff reported that after each stage the pupils’ understanding of the tasks that they had to undertake developed and gradually their confidence grew. 

The class teacher reported that at first he had to encourage and guide the pupils, but as time progressed the group clearly established their roles and developed a real sense of responsibility for the business and product, allowing him to take a “back seat”.

This process was not without its ups and downs and there were disagreements, but the group realised that this was part of the process and reflected the real world and managed to work out solutions as issues and conflicts arose.

The pupils identified opportunities to sell their product, including parents’ nights and careers events. Pupils were particularly keen to make and sell their product during their own parents’ night and even developed a rota for who would take turns at various stations to ensure that they all met their scheduled appointments as well as supporting the business.

A Future in Food is a national programme, and an opportunity arose for rural affairs and environment secretary Richard Lochhead MSP to see the results of the initiative. Mr Lochhead visited the school to meet staff and pupils in February this year. 

On the day, despite their nerves, the pupils excelled themselves and spoke with confidence and knowledge about their business, the skills they have developed and their future plans for the project. These include developing links with local primaries to share their knowledge and promote healthy eating. 

Their teachers were both surprised and very proud at how well the pupils rose to this challenge, and they saw a marked improvement in the pupils’ confidence and communication skills.

Reflecting on the project, Wiseman’s said: “We were delighted to work with Eastbank Academy and the SFDF to raise the profile of the dairy industry, as well as jobs and prospects within the sector and in particular the fresh milk industry. 

“The benefits to us were to provide our staff with the opportunity to show pride in their organisation and to create a future focus. 

“It is always very refreshing for any organisation to work closely with young people and learn from them. Eastbank Academy pupils and their teachers were particularly enthusiastic and engaged making the process all the more rewarding.”

The project with Eastbank Academy is still ongoing. Each new challenge the pupils tackle improves their confidence and develops their enterprise and employability skills.

The school regularly encourages pupils to reflect on what they have learnt from the experience and this can be summed up by Demi Laird, 14, managing director of Milky Twist, who said: “During this period I have learned to develop my leadership skills and gained confidence speaking in front of groups of people in my capacity as managing director.” 

By using the food industry as a context for learning, we are setting young people up with key skills they will need for future employment.

The food industry can offer many rewarding opportunities for young people and through these innovative partnerships we hope to encourage the next generation into our industry.

  • Moira Stalker is the national co-ordinator of the Schools Programme at the Scottish Food and Drink Federation.

Further information
A Future in Food is currently engaged with more than 20 schools across Scotland, and is actively looking to engage more businesses and schools in the programme. For further information or to get involved, visit www.sfdf.org.uk/sfdf/schools_programme

CAPTION: Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead MSP visits Eastbank Academy where Demi Laird, 14, shows him the results of their enterprise project and the new product they created with the help of Robert Wiseman Dairies


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