GUEST COLUMN: Vocational faculty offers best way to learn, by Craig Harrison, chef and teacher at Ashfield School

Photo by David Baird (
Photo by David Baird (

Ashfield School prides itself on being an integral part of the community it serves.

At its very heart is the desire to enable the young who walk through its doors every day to fully achieve their potential – whether that be a place at university, an apprenticeship or a job.

The school makes provision for each and every student to follow a route that will ensure they have the opportunity to leave school ready for the world that awaits them, and positively prepared for the next stage in their lives.

It is this focus on providing something for everyone that has powered the development of what is now an outstanding vocational faculty set to the rear of the school grounds, and encompassing hair and beauty salons, a vehicle workshop, a construction workshop, childcare department, uniformed services department, and a professional hospitality and catering facility run by me.

Like all of the vocational teachers, my background is in the ‘real’ world. I worked for many years as a chef in restaurants around the world which allows me to be able not only to impart the theory to students, but also the reality of working within this fast-growing industry.

I want to equip students with sound theoretical knowledge, as well as bucket loads of practical, hands-on experience, so that when they leave they are fully primed to hit the ground running in the workplace.

And this is where Ashfield goes one step further than any other school in the being the only one to offer Post 16 students the opportunity to study the BIIAB pub chef operations qualification (level two), enabling them to leave with the specific skills required to work within one of the many thousands of pub kitchens.

By 2022, it is forecast that there will be 11,000 job vacancies to be filled in the hospitality and catering industry, and we are equipping our students with the specific technical and practical skills to be able to walk into a job in a pub kitchen and really hit the ground running.

The pay back for the employer will be a well-trained new employee, fully complianced regarding health and safety, and with lots of practical experience under their belt. They will need less training, which makes them very cost effective. It really is a win/win situation for all concerned, but the most rewarding part is to know that our students have developed skills that will be with them all of their lives, and that they will always be able to use to earn a living for themselves.