Food & Nutrition

Learning how to cook is a crucial life skill for everyone. Beyond this, it promotes creativity, independence, leadership, time management and organisational skills, as well as encouraging enjoyment and social development around food.

In their Food and Nutrition lessons, girls are taught how to cook a range of savoury and sweet dishes, and apply the principles of nutrition and healthy eating. As well as gaining knowledge to help the students to make informed, healthy choices, the girls develop practical skills using different equipment and utensils which improves their independence, timing, organisation, co-ordination and team working skills. Food and Nutrition also consolidates literacy and numeracy in food terminology, and the weighing and measuring skills needed to follow a recipe. Food and Nutrition is taught within a modern, well-equipped, bright and hygienic kitchen by well qualified, knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers.

Our girls learn basic food practical skills and develop a greater knowledge of preparation techniques over Years 7 to 9. Building upon the safe use of equipment and knife skills, awareness of good hygiene and safety is at the core of each lesson. Using fruit and vegetables in dishes and learning how to confidently use the hob, grill and oven, are skills consolidated over time. Baking skills are introduced covering the rubbing in, creaming, melting and whisking method for different recipes. The girls have two assessments each academic year, allowing them to modify a basic recipe, plan their method of making, and present a good quality finished product. A successful assessment looks for independence and creativity within their recipe as well as a high standard of finish in their final product. In preparation for GCSE skills, the girls also look at sensory testing and investigation work involving yeast and raising agents, relating the science of how food is cooked to the qualities desired in cooked food.

Through the GCSE course, girls gain a greater understanding of theoretical aspects of food as well as learning a higher level range of practical skills, relating the working characteristics of ingredients to the method of how the product is made. There are four areas in the specification; nutrition, food provenance and food choice, cooking and food preparation, and skills including practical skills and cooking techniques. The practical skills we expect the girls to be confident in include knife skills, preparing fruit and vegetables, use of the cooker, use of equipment, cooking methods, prepare, combine and shape, sauce making, tenderise and marinate, dough, raising agents and setting mixtures. The final grade is achieved through a written exam and two pieces of non-examination assessment which accounts for 50% of the final GCSE grade. The two tasks are: Task 1 – The Food Investigation (15%) and Task 2 – The Food Preparation Assessment (35%).

With the strong influence of multicultural traditions of food in today’s society, it is important the girls learn about seasonality, and know where and how a variety of ingredients are grown, reared, caught and processed, supporting sustainability in the local community as well as in the country.

As there is currently no A Level qualification available, we offer girls at Mayfield two enrichment options to further develop their love of food. In Year 12, girls can choose to commit to a Mayfield Diploma in Culinary Skills course which extends practical skills and offers an insight into technical and luxury cooking. Girls benefit from the knowledge, skills and expertise of an outside professional food tutor who teaches some of the sessions. There is also a shorter 12 week course available, focusing on ‘Lunch on a Loan’ and ‘Fakeaway’ meals to support the girls with knowledge for independent living. In Year 13, as part of the Life Skills rotation, girls attend food sessions to prepare them with ideas for university meals.

We offer cookery clubs for both Lower School and Middle School groups. Our boarders are also offered a cooking activity each weekend, and regular Saturday workshops are enthusiastically supported. There is also an annual Inter-House ‘Ready Steady Cook’ competition. Opportunities to support charity events and showcase food skills on Mayfield Day are also encouraged.

Head of Department

Mrs Sue Smeaton


Sue Smeaton has been teaching food related courses for 30 years. She studied Home Economics (BSc. Hons) at Bath and then completed a PGCE at Roehampton. She has taught a variety of courses, including GCSE Food and Nutrition, Level 1/2 Hospitality and Catering, A Level Home Economics, and Level 3 Food Science and Nutrition. She also has experience of leading departments, developing courses, and has delivered training to other food teachers. Sue has worked at schools in London, Tunbridge Wells and East Grinstead, and is passionate about encouraging young people to cook for pleasure, to learn new skills, and to understand the fundamentals of nutrition so they can make healthy lifestyle choices.