Martin Whittaker visits a school where partnership with a nearby employer helps give business studies a real kick
Jenny Smart, teacher in charge of business studies at a big inner-city comprehensive, is under no illusions as to the immediate appeal of her subject.
"They think 'great - we're going to go out and visit places'. That's how I sell it," she says. "I do a big marketing job - 'we'll be visiting here, we'll be doing that.' I make a big thing of it, and that's what attracts them."
Oxstalls community school, a mixed comprehensive for 11 to 16-year-olds in Gloucester, already has strong links with business and a thriving partnership with big local employer Whitbread. On the day I visit, a delegation of senior management from the Whitbread group is touring the school on a fact-finding mission.
It includes the marketing director of Bella Pasta, the operations director from Pizza Hut and the food operations manager from Whitbread Inns.
Year 10 and 11 students help give a presentation on the partnership with Whitbread and explain why they chose business studies.
In 1998 a group of Year 8 children visited Whitbread's distribution depot as part of the Whitbread Educational Challenge - a partnership project in which students looked at health and safety.
Jenny Smart says the link has boosted interest in these subjects. Those Year 8s are now the Year 10s giving the presentation. Twenty-five pupils have chosen GNVQ business studies and 15 are taking it at GCSE. The highest number - three groups of 20-plus - have chosen information technology.
Apart from the obvious appeal of visits off-site, Jenny Smart believes other factors encourage students to choose business.
"A lot of these kids' parents have their own businesses or are self-employed," she says. "They are very, very aware. And that awareness also comes through the things you teach.
"Business gives you that opportunity, whereas English, maths and science don't necessarily dwell on careers."
Her students are about to visit an area in Gloucester's docklands to see if the site would be suitable for a new Whitbread depot. The company has already rejected it but Jenny wants to see what her students will say.
"You can do that sort of thing and it's great because they think they're out of a classroom - they don't see it as learning. But they are learning about the real world."
What of the students themselves? Carolyn Payne, aged 15, says: "I chose business studies because I'd maybe like to have my own business when I'm older. I'd like to be my own boss. I would rather tell other people what to do to than have them tell me.
"It's fun - you get to meet people who have their own businesses. But it's not a soft option - it can be very hard."