A pithy lesson on the ethics of business

1st April 2011 at 01:00

Every day we sell fruit to children in key stage 2. The fruit is ordered by staff but sold by children from Year 6. The job is highly sought after and there is a weekly rota. The children get the kudos of being trusted and they get a free piece of fruit.

This week we were alerted by customers to some allegedly dubious business practices. The whistle-blowers claimed sellers were giving fruit away for free to their friends. On investigation, the assistant head found that the two trustees had granted the privilege of selling fruit to five of their friends on this particular morning. They had also come up with a buy one, get one free offer to "improve sales". This had been offered to a customer who just happened to be another friend. Their takings showed that the seven sales staff had only sold one piece of fruit, but all seven had taken their bonus of free fruit.

Arguably, these young sales executives were showing initiative. Granted, their sales underperformed, but this may have been down to the market and their ideas were good. In their view, they only rewarded themselves with a reasonable bonus for their innovative ideas and work. It is an example of entrepreneurial enterprise worthy of any top industry chief or banker and an excellent preparation for the world of big business.

Unfortunately, it did not align with the ethos of fairness in a primary school. All seven were unceremoniously sacked and the job has been given to Year 3 children, who may not be so big business-orientated.

Stuart Myers, Headteacher, Whingate Primary School, Leeds.

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