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Enterprise boldly goes into Europe

Ministers who want to make enterprise education near-compulsory will be heartened by the achievements of two sets of Highland and island senior pupils who are celebrating international and national awards.

Not many Scottish teams win top prizes in Europe, but five S5 and S6 students from Ullapool High have won this year's European Business Game, beating six other countries at the finals in Denmark.

Further west, a team from the Sir E Scott School in Harris last week travelled to London to lift the Young Enterprise UK Company of the Year award after setting up a firm to design and manufacture the first Isle of Harris tartan.

Both sets of pupils are demonstrating that their geographical location on the north Atlantic fringe of Europe is no barrier to good ideas and enterprise.

The Ullapool team, headed by Michael Macleod, a fifth-year student from Lochinver, came up with detailed plans for a jigsaw-cum-board game for primary-aged children across Europe. As they play the game, they would learn about different countries and their cultures and languages. But schools and parents would have to stump up pound;15 to join in.

Michael, who hopes to study physics at university, became managing director of the team's fictional company, Digestive Learning, and spent many evenings and weekends working on the project along with his four colleagues. He was doing five Highers, including management, at the same time. "It's a lot of work but worth it," he said.

The team drew up a business plan, researched products and markets and worked through the whole process of setting up a business - most had already taken part in the Young Enterprise scheme. Their scheme impressed even their hard-nosed local bank manager who promised, if the idea got going, to lend them pound;75,000 start-up cash.

Sheila Green, business studies teacher at Ullapool, needs no persuasion from Scottish Executive ministers to back enterprise schemes after students this year and last appeared in Scottish finals. Three teams started on the European competition before two dropped out.

"It brings Higher Management to life, although not all students are doing the course. It offers challenge and competition and they learn thoroughly how to complete a business plan. Some people may not have the qualifications to go on to university but they could well set up their own business when they leave school.

"The ones who take part realise they could do it and they enjoy it," Mrs Green said.

One team last year came up with the idea of toilet rolls that promote the Highlands. Sheets would roll down, illustrated with pictures of mountains and moors. Another team this year wanted to set up an underwater restaurant in Ullapool.

Meanwhile, the Harris students set up their own company, Beartas, and designed and produced the first local tartan, providing work for kilt- makers and weavers. They produced bags, ties, scarves and hats made out of Harris Tweed and woven with their design.

Such success will be celebrated among Executive ministers who are injecting pound;44 million to implement their plans for enterprise education, spelt out in their document, Determined to Succeed. Jack McConnell, the First Minister, has labelled it his "flagship policy" for schools.

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