Good company

Chris Johnston visits two schools where presentation and internet enthusiasm are boosting students' interest in business studies

The lights are dimmed and the sound of tyres screeching and a camera shutter clicking echo around Graeme Galloway's classroom. While it might suggest some sort of photo shoot for a motoring magazine is taking place, the sounds are part of a PowerPoint presentation Graeme has prepared for his lower-sixth business studies lesson at Hampton School in Twickenham, on London's south-west outskirts.

The lesson is about stock control and with each tap on the electronic whiteboard, another element of a complex diagram covering points such as re-ordering levels, buffer stock and lead times is revealed.

As the presentation progresses, Graeme uses a variety of colours, graphics and sounds to help maintain the students' attention.

Using four electronic coloured marker pens, he underlines and circles points. He has been using an interactive whiteboard and PowerPoint for about a year and is enthusiastic about the difference it has made. "My students are far more motivated; it conveys to them that you are teaching business studies in the same way that businesses are making presentations in the real world," he says.

By preparing a handout that summarises the points in each slide, students are spared having to take notes and are able to concentrate on the topic.

Another big advantage of PowerPoint, says Graeme, is that although it initially takes some time to create a presentation, it can be saved and re-used.

Being able to devise his own presentations motivated him to learn PowerPoint, but Graeme points out that there are a growing number of ready-made presentations for business studies and other subjects available.

Ninety of Hampton's 300 sixth-formers take business studies and Graeme thinks the subject's popularity is a direct result of the style of delivery.

Technology has also played a major part in the lives of A-level business, ICT and economics students at Carre's Grammar School in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

Early last year a group of seven pupils set up a company called SlipstreamServices.com under the auspices of Young Enterprise, the national education charity that aims to inspire and equip young people to set up and run their own business.

Managing director Sam Heslop, 18, said his fellow students were interested in computers and the internet and realised there was a lack of low-cost, high quality website designers in Lincolnshire. SlipstreamServices.com (www.slipstreamservices.com) was born to exploit this niche.

Unlike many companies set up through Young Enterprise, Sam says the firm was intended from the outset to last longer than 12 months. It will become a limited company in August and continue operating when the students leave school and enter university later this year.

So far the firm has created websites for Carre's school (www.carresgrammarschool.co.uk), Sleaford building contractors Newman Moore (www.newmanmoore.com) and an online Lincolnshire business directory (www.lincs-online.com). A site for Sleaford Town Council is under development.

Organisations wanting a simple web presence on a shoestring can have a one-page site for as little as pound;30.

SlipstreamServices has also begun to offer web-hosting services as well. Because the company has very low overheads, Sam says its prices are highly competitive and has attracted interest from organisations based as far afield as Sweden and the United States.

Slipstream has ensured that people looking for web-hosting services know about their offerings by doing a deal with a Nottingham software company. In exchange for website work, the company ensured Slipstream's website was tailored in a way that would see it appear high up on lists generated by search engines such as Google or Yahoo.

Despite the expense of buying software, the students have managed to make a modest profit, which Sam attributes to knowing how to run an enterprise efficiently.

Carre's business studies teacher John Kyte says students' work running the company dovetails with what they have been learning in their Nuffield A-level economics and business classes, which are predominantly theoretical.

John says he has taken a less hands-on approach with Slipstream than other Young Enterprise ventures because it is important to let students make mistakes. But when the wheels have fallen off, he has been standing by to help them get back on track.

The pupils had to put into practice what they learned about marketing in particular. To win the contract for the Sleaford Council website, they had to make a presentation to the councillors who were not web-savvy.

Slipstream has the potential, John believes, to continue to be at least a sideline for the seven students when they finish higher education, if not a full-time undertaking.

The company's other "staff" include deputy managing director Peter Nemeiksas, finance director Scott Haberton, sales director Tom Wallis, technical director Gary Burch, communications director Matt Robertson and company secretary Matthew Slater.

Young Enterprise: www.youngenterprise.org.uk

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