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‘Home Economics: the missing ingredient in food policy’. The practice and interpretation of food policy in the Irish secondary school education setting

McCloat, A. (2021). ‘Home Economics: the missing ingredient in food policy’. The practice and interpretation of food policy in the Irish secondary school education setting. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Despite a renewed interest internationally in researching food education in schools, there remains a dearth of published research on the practice and interpretation of Home Economics, from a food policy perspective, in the education setting, particularly in the Irish context. The aim of this thesis was to explore the practice and interpretation of food policy in the Home Economics curriculum in the Irish secondary school setting. To address the research aim, five studies were undertaken. The use of the interpretative paradigm, as the conceptual lens, is reflected through the choice of qualitative methods. Basil Bernstein’s theory of ‘Pedagogic Device’ was integrated with the work by Stephen Ball on policy enactment. This offered a hybrid theoretical lens to gain a deeper understanding of the macro policy level of curriculum development and the interpretation of this policy at the micro level of the school and classroom. Study one analysed the curriculum policy pertaining to food education across seven countries. Study two explored the evolution of Home Economics curriculum policy in Irish primary and secondary schools from the 1800s to the 21st Century. Study three critiqued Home Economics in Irish secondary schools as a food education intervention. Study four examined the macro policy process pertaining to the reform of Junior Cycle Home Economics in Ireland. Study five examined the experiences of Irish Home Economics teachers in enacting curriculum policy at the micro level.

By using Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic device as the theoretical lens, the findings outline
how the reformed Home Economics curriculum policy was developed at the macro policy
level. The findings demonstrated how Home Economics education is ideally placed to teach
practical and theoretical food education in the secondary school setting. The enactment of this reformed policy was broadly welcomed by the teachers who regarded it as timely, relevant and modern. They perceived the new policy presented opportunities for Home Economics to contribute more effectively to the wider health and food policy agendas. It is evident that the Home Economics teacher nationally and internationally, as an actor in the pedagogic device, plays a critical role in facilitating the empowerment of students with practical food and health skills so that they can develop a positive relationship with food and make sustainable and healthy food choices. Home Economics incorporates nutritional knowledge, practical food skills and scientific theory in an integrated and sequential manner. Therefore, it is ideally placed to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and sustained food education to young people in the education setting as part of the wider food and health policy arena.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Health Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health Sciences
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