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A piece of cake

Teaching batch-production in food technology works best when students associate it with a practical situation, so I turn the test kitchen into a mock manufacturing environment. For the Year 10 special occasion project, students are asked to batch-produce a fairy cake design, suitable for a 21st birthday party, using the creaming method.

They work in mixed-ability and mixed-gender teams of four. Each team thinks of a name for their bakery and designates staff. The general manager is responsible for the team and writes a staff time plan for 50 minutes. The quality controller ensures each fairy cake looks identical and is finished to a high standard, and weighs each cake mixture for accuracy. They also oversee portion control of any toppings. The health-and-safety and hygiene managers write a risk-assessment and a staff cleaning rota.

Chefs develop the recipe to include innovative designs for fillings and toppings.

Each team member brings in enough ingredients and toppings to make eight fairy cakes. Together they batch-produce 32 identical cakes using mixers or food processors, learning how computer-aided machinery can assist in production.

I act as a supermarket buyer with the objective of purchasing one new fairy cake range.

Each bakery starts with 100 points. I walk around the classroom with a clipboard, monitoring any team's mistakes or problems. For each fault noted on their record sheet, the team loses a point. The team with the highest number of points left at the end of the lesson wins a prize. Each team receives written feedback.

After researching boys' achievements, I now try to add lots of competitive elements to the lessons.

Practical batch-production, within a short timescale, enables the teams to rely on each other and work together to achieve their objective. It helps create a well focused, fair, team-working classroom environment.

Sarah Middleton Food technology and fast track teacher, the Robert Smyth School, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

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