Advanced search

GCSE Options: History vs Food Tech

(51 Posts)
purpleyellowred Thu 15-Mar-18 20:01:58

DS (y9) is very academic, so he is aiming for high grades in his GCSEs and potentially Oxbridge or one of the Russell Group universities. He is inclined towards maths/computing/science/engineering for his future career direction. He's choosing his GCSE options and the following are either compulsory or settled:
- Eng Lang/Lit
- Maths
- RP Short Course (they sit this in Year 10)
- 3 Sciences
- Spanish
- Geography
- Computer Science
Then he has one more option and he's deciding between History (Edexcel) and Food & Nutrition (AQA).

His history teacher has been very encouraging (he does very well in her class) and he's generally very good at analytical essay-based subjects, so it's a reasonably safe bet that he'll do well in it.

He also does well in Food Tech and enjoys it, so he is seeing it as light relief from other more academic subjects. It still does have some academic elements though - there is some written project work as well as practical work. But is it seen as a soft option? And does that matter given that he is doing lots of other more academic subjects?

Advice from school is to do what he enjoys most (likely to be food tech) but I'm not so sure. I dropped history at GCSE but as an adult felt that left an occasionally-embarrassing gap in my general knowledge, which I've never got round to filling by reading popular-history books. I see history as a fairly basic element of a good well-rounded education and it seems too soon to drop it. In contrast, I don't suppose not doing food-tech GCSE has ever held anyone back from being a confident cook if they had a basic interest in it (and he does, so he will still cook for pleasure even if he doesn't do the GCSE).

Any advice?

OP’s posts: |
Snowysky20009 Thu 15-Mar-18 20:24:31

History. He's still only year 9, what he wants do do may change several times between now and year 13. If he is academic this would be the route I would encourage my ds's to take.
However if he wants to do something related to the food industry- prep, cooking etc, then obviously this would be beneficial.

be47 Thu 15-Mar-18 20:33:24

Food tech.

A lot of kids get hugely fatigued doing too many intensely academic essay based subjects, and a practical subject can be a hugely enjoyable change. The new spec is much more challenging than the old GCSE, so it still has an academic element and will be challenging just in different ways.

Many schools will let him do history a-level later without the GCSE assuming his English/humanities grades are good so even if he does decide to pursue history more it's not the end of the world.

It's also worth considering if it's an argument worth having - if you're relatively happy either way then let him make the choice and support his decision. At the end of the day it's him sitting the exams, and kids tend to work harder for subjects they really care about and are motivated to work for. It's sounds like he's a hard-working kid who'll be fine either way!

TeenTimesTwo Thu 15-Mar-18 20:39:25

The thing with history is he will only ever learn the topics they cover in the syllabus. So he could end up with great knowledge of eg WWII but still know nothing about eg the Industrial Revolution.

He has a good set of solid academic subjects, one for light relief won't hurt.

Is he aware of the syllabus for each?
Will food tech have a lighter final revision load (which may be appreciated come final exams).
Will the practical aspects of the food tech be enjoyable, or turn life into a misery?
Will behaviour be better in history if more likely to be done by 'more academic' pupils?

I don't think it matters, and he should do what he fancies most if he will do equally well in both.

Foxsox Thu 15-Mar-18 20:52:56

Food (Preparation and Nutrition)
(Food tech isn't a thing anymore)

If science is his thing he will flourish in AQA FPN, the new syllabus is anything but the 'soft option'

He will have tWO Non examined assessments (NEA) NEA 1 is a research task and practical investigation with analytical essay to accompany and NEA2 is a 3 hour practical exam accompanied by a 2000 word planning and analysis document. This is all finished of with a 1hr 45 min exam.

There is a great deal to learn and remember for the exam at the end too.

I agree with the PP that suggests his history will be limited to the subjects on the syllabus.

TeenTimesTwo Thu 15-Mar-18 21:38:16

Foxsox Slight hijack, but what subjects are non/less academic children meant to pick under this new system?

Headunderthecovers Thu 15-Mar-18 21:51:41


dd didn't find food tech light relief and loves cooking. She found it pretty boring and turned in a B with A s in her 'academic' subjects. I would agree it isn't that soft and does need work which can feel a bit of a let down if it is meant to be your light relief - dd really resented this! History teaches essential skills of analysis and writing that are useful for higher levels of science. I studied a science subject to post degree level and can see in my dd's history A level course skills that I use as well. Plus History is to my mind essential to a 'rounded education' which is what you want for GCSE level education.

Foxsox Thu 15-Mar-18 21:57:58

Some schools offer vocational courses which would be an advisable choice.
There really isn't a large 'menu' for 'non academics' just lots more support and intervention
I don't necessarily agree with it but that's the case.

tired17 Thu 15-Mar-18 21:58:35

I think he should do the one he wants. He has a solid selection already in terms of future options and the lack of history won't hold him back unless its an area he is likely to want to study further. Geography will count as his humanities subject and the GCSE period is intense, one subject just for enjoyment will be absolutely fine.

lostlemon Thu 15-Mar-18 22:01:00

History. My DD loves it, she is glad to have moved on from American history but is really enjoying learning about Hitler etc.

I do think that these subjects that we think of as 'light relief' are anything but because they are heavy on having to prove you can do stuff that you can do already.

TeenTimesTwo Thu 15-Mar-18 22:01:23

Thanks Fox. I don't really understand why DD's school doesn't offer BTEC Food as I suspect that would be a better option for many (assuming it still exists). I'm kind of hoping they'll have changed their mind by the time DD chooses next year.

clary Thu 15-Mar-18 22:39:30

Whichever he likes better. Ask what topics they cover in history. Ask about the food - his much of the exam is practical?

His other options cover everything, so food is fine, not that it's soft now anyway.

Teen at my former school they offer animal care and child development both of which are more practical based and have been popular with some if the less academic. But I agree, not a lot is targeted at weaker students. 😞

Leeds2 Thu 15-Mar-18 22:49:14

I would encourage History, but not if he is desperate to do Food Tech. I would though check what periods of history they would be studying, as that may impact upon his enjoyment of the subject.

Glumglowworm Thu 15-Mar-18 22:55:16

I did both (sat my GCSEs in 2001). I don’t know the current syllabus but food tech was one of the only subjects I had to stay late after school to finish things off.

I did A level history, I still have huge gaps in my general knowledge of history, since what I remember most was Germany from WW1 to the end of WW2. I’ve learned more about post war British history from The Crown than I did at school, and about the War of the Roses and the Tudors from Philippa Gregory novels.

In your sons position I’d choose history, as it will evidence essay writing and analysing evidence which are more transferable skills.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 15-Mar-18 23:00:28

What is RP?

ZandathePanda Fri 16-Mar-18 01:40:24

We were in the same dilemma except my very bright dd has to do compulsory RE (shes at our local C of E comp) so that was an option gone. Grrr. She is also doing Maths, 2 Englishs, 3 Sciences, computing and German so the only option left was drama or geography. She wont get the Ebac as she chose drama. We held two hands out with scrunched up paper stating 'geography' or 'drama' then got her to pick several times. Her face lit up everytime she picked drama. Another consideration is drama had a lot of coursework. This takes the pressure off in exam time as they inevitably end up cramming facts in at the last minute.

purpleyellowred Fri 16-Mar-18 08:05:53

@Allthebestnamesareused RP is Religion & Philosophy

OP’s posts: |
alldonenow2 Fri 16-Mar-18 10:49:43

We chose Food Tech in the same situation - albeit for a ds who is much stronger at sciences than at humanities.

It's not a soft option - there's a very academic side learning about food and nutrition that goes with the practical work.

My view is that it's a useful and fairly future proof subject to have under your belt - we all need to eat and health issues related to diet are rife in society - having the skills and knowledge to understand that will be important both from a personal and potentially a professional point of view. He also really enjoys it.

purpleyellowred Fri 16-Mar-18 14:17:36

Thank for all the advice. I'm looking at the Edexcel History specification to see what topics would be covered, and it talks about "Thematic study options" and "Period study options". Does that mean that the school selects one of the options to study (so they won't cover the others at all)? Or does it mean that they study all of them and then students choose which one they want to write about in the exam?

OP’s posts: |
clary Fri 16-Mar-18 14:30:15

OP you need to ask the school what they study. Eg DS2 studies rise of the Nazi party and medicine through time - if you wanted the Tudors and history of USA you'd be out of luck.

Kimlek Sun 18-Mar-18 02:52:51

The school chooses 4 topics from a list. One is in depth and one is longitudinal (eg 100 years in medicine) and 2 others. The school will already know. They are examined in all 4.

BubblesBuddy Sun 18-Mar-18 08:21:47

It’s a shame he doesn’t have an art, so Food seems a reasonable idea. He already has Geography and does not need History. Geography is ultimately better for engineering if he becomes interested in environmental engineering. History is a great subject for nearly everyone, except engineers! Food is always useful!

Yorkshirebetty Sun 18-Mar-18 11:00:28

Teentimestwo - only learn what's on the History syllabus? True. However, they also learn skills of analysis, interpretation, judgement and forming a clinching argument.

TeenTimesTwo Sun 18-Mar-18 17:07:22

Yorkshire However, they also learn skills of analysis, interpretation, judgement and forming a clinching argument.

I agree but my comment was in sort of response to the OP's initial post where she says I dropped history at GCSE but as an adult felt that left an occasionally-embarrassing gap in my general knowledge,

So doing History GCSE you can still end up with gaping holes in your knowledge of History.

I do agree that the analytical skills are good. Bu then it's useful to learn to cook too...

Yorkshirebetty Sun 18-Mar-18 17:11:48

Very true, teen. Ultimately the young person should do what they want to, it's hard to sustain the motivation anyway at times.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in