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Merthyr slickers' gamble pays off

Pupils invested their all in the stock market game. Nicola Porter reports

Young city slickers discovered it paid to gamble when they felt the adrenaline rush of trading in an old-fashioned bear pit. Teams of pupils took part in the Stock Market Challenge 2005 with all the heart-stopping excitement of pre-computerised stock trading.

Each team was given pound;35,000 as an initial investment on the market.

Live news bulletins were broadcast to the pupils to help them make gut decisions on what to buy and sell. And, as the bell sounded for the end of trading, it was the teams which risked most on the floor that won the battle of the pound signs.

A team from Cyfarthfa high, in Merthyr Tydfil, won the Year 12 category with a portfolio value of pound;371,600. Seventeen-year-old Ian Cleary, team member and head boy, said he did not have a clue about city trading before the challenge. Speaking after the event, he said the team risked a crash to come out as top traders.

"We soon found out buying and selling quickly was the name of the game," he said.

Mike Wood, Ian's teacher and head of business studies, said: "It's not as if the pupils read the FT every day, but they are bright and quickly grasped that it was best to buy and sell shares fast."

The Y10 event was won by Abersychan comprehensive, in Pontypool, with a portfolio value of pound;301,200. They plan to use the pound;1,000 prize - which went to each winning year group - to set up a bookshop.

Business studies teacher Christine Thomas said: "This win has increased motivation among my pupils no end."

In all, 28 schools from across Wales took part in the competition, held at Cardiff's Coal Exchange.

Jade Edwards, 14, of St Julian's School, in Newport, said: "We had to really work as a team to get the best out of the money market."

A joint venture between the University of Wales, University of Newport and University of Glamorgan, the event was aimed at talent-spotting young people with a future in the city.

First Campus, an initiative aimed at introducing pupils as young as 10 to higher education, helped with the organisation.

Laura James, First Campus officer for Cardiff, said: " The endeavour and enthusiasm of pupils as they competed on the trading floor was impressive."

In second and third place for Y10 were Bassaleg school, in Newport (Pounds 234,500), and Oakdale comprehensive, in Blackwood (pound;234,400). Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, in Cardiff (pound;305,900), and a team from Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr, also in Cardiff (pound;282,500), were Y12 runners-up.

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