A group of Year 5 pupils at St Joseph and St Teresa's Woodlands East RC primary school in Doncaster recently spent the morning at their local Pizza Hut - studying maths!
When they arrived, children were given a work book. Everything was related to measuring quantities for servings and simple costings - part of the everyday work in a fast food restaurant.
Thirsty pupils were given a 1.5 litre bottle of Pepsi, and asked to calculate how many regular cups it could fill. Next, pupils compared the cost of a set menu with that of ordering items individually. Rising in complexity, pupils handled volumes (of cheese topping) and designed a pizza box.
Further challenges included tackling the wages and overtime bill and drawing graphs to plot the numbers of different types of pizza sold.
Shift manager Helen Revill said the job left the children particularly hungry. "The children were measuring cups, boxes and pans, and cutting pizzas into slices - mathematically. The staff were all helping out, but the children were fantastic. Each group got a large pizza to share!" The session ran from 9 to 11.15am, ending just as Pizza Hut's first lunchtime customers started to arrive. Giving a class of primary children the run of your restaurant is a challenge for staff - but the rewards are great for both restaurant and school. Tony Allen, national education manager for Whitbread in the Community, agrees: "My wife is a primary teacher and I've been a school governor more years than I care to remember. I get angry when I see expensive resources unused in a cupboard. I'd far rather be investing money getting pupils out of the classroom and into our businesses."
Allen and a team of five regional education managers take the education gospel to the company's businesses - Pizza Hut, Beefeater Inns, Brewer's Fayre, Costa Coffee, TGI Fridays, Travel Inn, Marriott Hotels and David Lloyd Leisure - all of which open their doors to school groups if the manager is willing.
Besides raising the profile of Whitbread's interest in the community, the school visits - which continue to secondary school and college level - are a useful source of recruitment. Revill, a business studies graduate, is convinced of the benefits for pupils. "Maths in school can be quite hard going. It is a lot easier to understand if pupils can relate it to everyday life. And they're getting a useful insight into our business."
* THE CISCO KIDS - Wallington High School for Girls
Pupils of Wallington High Schol for Girls are learning high-level computer skills - online. Sponsored by BT and Cisco Systems to the tune of pound;10,000, Wallington Girls is setting up a network engineering laboratory where complex ICT system design taught over the internet can be simulated in the classroom.
Many schools now use the internet for research and most teachers can explain the basics of web browsing. But few individuals know enough about cutting-edge network engineering to teach it, and those that can tend to be in senior positions within the private sector. Teaching over the internet is the answer and Wallington teachers are further helped to understand the complex topic through specialised training packages.
Deputy headteacher Charlotte Davies explains: "There is no funding from the DfEE for anything like this, but BT finance us to the tune of pound;10,000 and Cisco provide cutting-edge software which is continually updated. Cisco trains our teachers via regional academies where knowledge cascades down. Our nearest regional academy is Nescot (North-East Surrey College of Technology)."
The connection with BT - Wallington Girls has been a BT link school for the past five years - means the school's PCs are networked and many have internet access via commercial broad band cabling ADSL - many times faster than ISDN.
BT has sponsored the school's videoconferencing facility and there is a link between the 11-18 girls' school and St Piers special school, where Wallington's A-level drama students put on plays about local history, supporting the teaching of Key Stage 2 geography and history.
At Wallington, as in other secondary schools, the internet is making an impact across the curriculum. Interestingly, it is commercial, not educational, websites that provide the most value. Davies, an A-level business studies teacher, explains: "The emphasis now is on sifting and selecting - not on memorising. An awful lot of educational sites tend not to be critical enough for A-levels.
"We do research on company websites, and the girls compare, for example, high street banking with internet banking; in terms of which organisations are better at communicating with their customers. The internet can provide some valuable clues about company strengths and weaknesses."
Meanwhile, Davies believes the internet could hold the key to teaching shortage subjects. "Schools can't recruit or retain skilled IT staff. The solution is online teaching and we're working with NILTA, the National Information and Learning Technology Association, on this issue."