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Playing the market

If staff at Inverurie Academy fancy retiring to a place in the sun with a vast wad of cash, they could do worse than talk to a group of their third-year whizz-kids who have just played the stock market.

In just a few hours, the Aberdeenshire teenagers turned pound;15,000 into more than pound;69,000 - seeing off competing traders from 24 schools throughout the North East of Scotland.

Alas, their plunder is only a paper gain and the pupils' spending spree will be with their modest gift voucher winnings. But the thrill of the triumph and the trophy they have won for the school may have persuaded some to reconsider future careers.

The five-strong team from Inverurie took part in Stock Market Challenge in Dundee alongside other pupils from Aberdeenshire, Tayside and Fife. It was part of a national initiative run by Cause Direct Education with Careers Scotland.

"There were all these different made-up companies and we had to figure out which shares we wanted to buy. I had to make sure I knew what shares we'd bought and keep an eye on how much money we had," explains Natalie Coutts, 14, the team's financial director.

In a highly-charged atmosphere, the teams made split-second decisions on what to buy and sell, taking advice from news analyst Andrew Yule, 13.

"They were issuing daily newspapers, so I was reading them and picking out information about each of the companies we were investing in. There were stories about take-overs and investments and new products the companies were releasing. I had to analyse the stories and decide whether they were good or bad for our company," saysAndrew.

He is now giving second thoughts to his preferred option of a working life as a joiner after a day of high tension, raised voices and financial success. Ellie Ogg, 14, was shares disposal manager and Jamie Czop, 14, senior portfolio manager.

Shares purchasing manager Bruce Morris, 14, is also buoyed up by their success. "It was really good, the atmosphere and getting to work with folk in your class, getting to know them better and getting to know how they think," he says.

All of which is exactly the intention of the organisers, who recently launched Stock Market Challenge as an educational software package on sale to schools, allowing pupils throughout the country to play the virtual stock market.

"We arrange this live schools event, complemented by the software-based resource which schools can buy, which enables them to run the activity themselves for work-related learning," says Liam Barnes of Cause Direct Education.

Stock Market Challenge is being held at regional events throughout the UK over the next few months, with more than 400 schools taking part. "It's presented as a virtual week in the life of a stock market and we give the pupils a starting investment of pound;15,000. They trade through Monday to Friday in the life of a market. We've taken nine fictitious companies and written news stories around them," he says.

The competition also fulfils the Skills for Work element of the curriculum for 14-18, focusing on enterprise education, work-related learning and financial capability. "The skills they are using on the day are teamwork, communication, negotiation, risk management and generally working with others," says Mr Barnes.

Malcolm Barron, Careers Scotland's regional manager, says the project aims to increase pupils and teachers' awareness of job opportunities in the financial sector. "The challenge is one of a number of initiatives focusing on a sector of the economy to support the school curriculum through working with businesses," he says.

Anita Weir, principal teacher for the business and information technology faculty at Inverurie Academy, says the pupils prepared for the event during lunchtimes and at home. "It was completely different from anything they do in school. It was great," she says.


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