Sandra Rayner, who many of you will know as one of our fabulous cookit trainers, is retiring. Since starting work with Open Futures in 2011, we estimate she has trained over 300 teachers in cooking skills, benefitting thousands of children in classrooms all over the country. As she 'hangs up her apron' for a well-earned retirement, she shared some memories of her time with us and her path into teacher training and Open Futures.
Open Futures: Sandra, you have been working with Open Futures for many years. We will be very sad to see you go! Can you tell us how you came to be working with schools on Open Futures?
Sandra Rayner: I taught Domestic Science, then Home Economics and finally Food Technology for many years and loved it, but as time went on schools’ budgets were squeezed. At the school I was working in on the edge of Leeds, the new head needed to make savings, so cut down on expensive practical subjects that needed to be taught in smaller classes. As we had two Food rooms, he decided to turn one into a science lab and cut the amount of food technology taught in the school. I was asked to teach mainly Health and Social care, which I did for two years but it wasn’t really my area of expertise.
OF: How did you then find your way into Open Futures cooking?
SR: A job was advertised in Halifax working for Focus on Food and I applied and was thrilled to be offered it. Part of this job was working with schools introducing the Open Futures cookit programme to primary schools.
OF: How was the adjustment to primary education after a career in secondary?
SR: I always thought I preferred secondary age children but how wrong I was! It is a delight to work in primary schools with children who just love to cook and soak up all the things you tell them. I cannot thank enough the primary teachers I have worked with over the years for sharing their expertise with me, they are a very generous bunch. I have been really privileged to work alongside all the Open Futures Schools. I hope I have been able to share with them my cooking knowledge.
OF: What have been your highlights?
SR: Over the years there have been lots of special moments. There was child whose school thought he was mute, but once he got his hands into flour forgot he didn’t speak at school and joined in the conversation. I also remember a special needs child who wanted to know how the liquidizer worked and would not give up until he understood. And there was a year 6 child who hugged me at the end of the cooking session because he’d cooked with his Mum who had died recently.
Then there have been the wonderful TA’s who have been so keen to learn and deliver the cooking sessions, as well as the privilege of working with the teachers and seeing ‘the light go on’ as we discuss how we can teach a lot of the core curriculum through cooking sessions. The pupils often do not realise what the focus of the session is, but do get a real understanding of fractions when we divide up dough, or changed states when we make salad dressings or whatever our core curriculum focus is.
OF: What are your plans now?
SR: I have a friend who shares his narrowboat with me and we are hoping to become part-time boat people, the plan being to take to boat from Nantwich, were it is moored, down to the Oxford canal for the summer. I am also looking forward to spending more time at home as I now live in north Wales, as well as trips away with friends who have already retired.
But I will miss you all! Thank you for letting me invade your schools and work alongside you and the children, they have been the best years in a career that I have always enjoyed. My sincere thanks to every one of you.
We would like to wish Sandra a very long and happy retirement. On behalf of the many schools and children you have worked with, thank you Sandra and enjoy that narrowboat!