We're lovin' it: Ofqual grabs McD's big cheese

11th December 2009 at 00:00
Exam regulator serves up fast-food chain's UK president to get report launch cooking on gas

McDonald's is not usually a firm you would expect to turn to when booking a keynote speaker for one of the biggest annual events in education. The fast-food giant's reputation among some in teaching leaves a little to be desired.

Nevertheless, when exam watchdog Ofqual launches its second chief regulator's report next Friday, the guest speaker will be none other than Steve Easterbrook, president of McDonald's UK (pictured).

A spokesman for the publicly funded regulator explained: "Vocational qualifications are a hugely important part of our work, opening the doors of opportunity to millions of learners each year. McDonald's was one of the first employers to become a recognised awarding organisation in its own right."

American research earlier this year suggested that higher than average consumption of food from McDonald's restaurants adversely affected pupils' academic ability.

And when teaching union the NAHT accepted the company's sponsorship for a 2005 conference, it faced an internal rebellion from heads who felt the deal smacked of hypocrisy amid so much concern about healthy eating in schools.

Yet in January the fast-food chain announced plans to become the UK's biggest employer of apprentices, with up to 10,000 employees on level 2 courses by 2010. This ambition attracted criticism, with one leading businessman questioning whether we really wanted to create "a nation of burger bar managers".

But that did not put off Kathleen Tattersall, Ofqual's chief regulator, who recently visited the chain's UK HQ in London to see its education and training programme for herself.

A spokesman said: "She was pleased to hear that McDonald's has found that achieving awarding-organisation recognition has enhanced its in-house training and that having the status is working well both for the company and its employees."

McDonald's is proud that so many of its staff that join with few or no qualifications and return to learning through its scheme, a message that Mr Easterbrook will no doubt want to emphasise went he takes to the platform next Friday.

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