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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Goodbye Mr Chips, hello Mr Fries
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff

McDonald's staff
Teachers dished out fast food for the afternoon

Teachers are downing chalks to spend an afternoon working behind the counter at McDonald's.

The fast food giant is offering them the chance to serve burgers, fries and milkshakes as part of what it describes as a "menu of opportunity".

McDonald's is also organising conferences for head teachers, saying schools can learn from business practices that have made it one of the world's biggest brand names.

But unions have warned that closer links demonstrate a "creeping tide of commercialisation" in education.

'Goodness of its heart'

Last week, McDonald's held a conference for 100 head teachers in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Delegates heard about the company's experiences in crisis management, negotiation and recruiting and retaining staff.

They are working with hamburgers. Unlike children they don't talk back
Harry Goodliffe, head teacher

Meanwhile, staff from Wilthorpe Junior School, Barnsley, spent two hours serving at a drive-through restaurant, for which they earned 250 for funds.

Head teacher Harry Goodliffe said: "It made me realise how efficient the whole operation there was and how everyone knew what they were expected to do.

"Of course, you can't transfer the skills directly. They are working with hamburgers. Unlike children they don't talk back.

"But it was good to look at the workings of a business."

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has campaigned against commercialisation in schools, recently denouncing a book scheme run by Walker's Crisps and a sports equipment project by Cadbury.

Big Mac, French fries and Coca Cola
The Big Mac has become one of the most popular meals on earth

It says companies are putting undue pressure on children to eat unhealthy food.

John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, said: "McDonald's is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart. It is trying to achieve a profile in education.

"It's a foothold in its effort to gain brand recognition. This is part of a long tradition of international companies trying to do this."

McDonald's is planning to hold another head teachers' conference in Carmarthenshire.

Steven Hall, head of education at the company, said: "We are taking the opportunity to share our thoughts and knowledge of transferable skills with head teachers.

"We offer a menu of opportunity to schools

Litter runs

"There's no commercialisation involved. We are passing on business practices that we have learned. I don't see any issue of commercialisation.

"We have been involved in education for more than 10 years. We are a company that works in the community."

McDonald's staff have taken part in school-run litter collections, while managers have spoken to A-level business studies classes.

The company, which began in the US in 1955, has more than 26,500 restaurants in 119 countries, serving around 39 million people a day.

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