Sawtry community college is a mixed ability foundation technology college in Cambridgeshire. When I was appointed as a newly qualified teacher in 1997 I wanted food technology to become more industrially orientated and in line with the national curriculum.
At GCSE level, students complete a project that includes industrial practices. Students have to understand how to develop and manufacture a new food product. Could they really understand how to do this from the confines of a classroom? I contacted the manager of Waitrose at Peterborough, Kevin Whiston, and we discussed the possibility of the students designing a product, trialling it, and then having it produced in store.
The students' brief was to design and make a new bread product that could be sold as a multi-cultural alternative to the sandwich as a take-away item. Stephanie Daughters, food technologist at Waitrose, managed the project from the store's side. The products had to be ready for the first week in November last year, and they were to be commercially viable.
The students worked on their projects and trialled their products. November came and 29 students had prepared their products for Waitrose. They were really nervous - this was a real exercise, not merely a cosmetic link with education. The Waitrose team was serious about getting ideas for new food products, and the whole exercise was validated in later discussions when they said that the innoative products went "far beyond" their expectations.
After the tastings, discussions were conducted enthusiastically. The team was particularly impressed with the genuinely new ideas. David Surman, aged 15, told the story of how he came up with the idea of curried doughnuts (bread dough with a curry filling). Where does it say that a doughnut has to be sweet? Trying the unusual is one way new products can be developed.
There were various filled tortillas that could be sold in the restaurants. There was a spaghetti bolognese cossack (spaghetti bolognese inside bread dough) designed by Heather Wayland, aged 16, that could be sold as a healthier alternative to a pie.
Inside-out pizza designed by Natalie Evans, aged 16, was a hit with its potential for a variety of fillings. A soda bread with a chocolate flavour and strawberries on top designed by Melanie Platts, aged 15, was also popular.
Other ideas included a herby bread with date and cottage cheese filling by Nicola Hebb, aged 16, and a poppy seed naan bread that could hold a variety of different fillings, by Nicholas Lee, also aged 16. All the students were highly praised by the Waitrose team. Since then, the students have successfully completed their GCSE coursework. Their products have been tried and tested with production set to take place during the next few months. The students cannot wait to see their products on the shelves - and neither can I.
Julia Jones teaches food technology at Sawtry community college, Cambridgeshire