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Chill out

Jerome Monahan sees pupils get the taste for food hygiene

There's nothing quite like being shut in a restaurant's deep freeze to get an idea of how cold things need to be to ensure good food hygiene.

This experience of the chilly end of the food industry is just one of many intriguing activities on offer to primary schools that take the opportunity to turn the nearest Pizza Express into a temporary classroom.

The company's primary programme, which started in 1998, has enabled more than 90,000 children across the UK to sample life at the dough-face in one of 220 participating outlets. Not only do they make pizzas, they take part in a broad spectrum of restaurant activities relating to design and technology, mathematics, geography, science and English.

"In-service sessions are on offer and we have a team of area co-ordinators who can liaise with restaurants and set up preliminary visits enabling teachers to plan the kind of emphasis they want their eventual school trip to have," explains Pizza Express community programmes manager Harriet Macdonald.

The maximum group size for visits is usually about 15, but Tristan Middleton of Corsham Regis Primary School in Wiltshire negotiated and got all 31 of his Year 4-5 cohort in for a four-hour visit. "We covered so many areas of the curriculum," he said. "The highlights were making their own pizza and food tasting - olives, anchovies and chillies proving quite scary. Then we spent time exploring where the ingredients came from and back at school the digital photographs we'd taken were put to good use creating a mock newspaper report."

In his view what really stood out was the pupils' enthusiasm and excitement: "Seeing them full of questions, chatting away to the chef was exhilarating for me."

Dawn Davis, a class 4 teacher at Ryhall Primary School, Lincolnshire, reports similar rave reviews. "It's two weeks since our visit and they are still talking about it," she says. "The learning they did that day was embedded in real experience, it will stick."

Of course, part of the intention is to embed brand awareness too, but according to Tristan Middleton there was no hard sell and the emphasis throughout the day was on using fresh ingredients and a balanced diet.

For information on the primary programme Email: company also runs a secondary programme called Taste For Design on the planning and creation of a Pizza Express branch

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