Former money man's the business

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Business is usually associated with dour men in suits rather than swashbuckling entrepreneurs.

But Tre-Gib school in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, has turned the stereotype on its head and made the subject so popular that the number of pupils taking it as an A-level has increased 10 times in four years.

While the school cannot officially specialise in enterprise like its English counterparts, head Julie Griffiths has sought to make it a prominent feature of school life.

Four years ago she took on former banker Tim Williams to teach business.

One of his roles was to get the school more involved in Young Enterprise, a UK-wide competition designed to introduce schoolchildren to business.

"We don't have a major employer on the doorstep," said Mr Williams, "so it's vitally important that a school like ours looks at other types of employment that will enable children to stay in the area. That's our philosophy."

This approach has now been recognised with an award from the Welsh Secondary Schools Association (WSSA) which has watched as the school's young entrepreneurs have attracted acres of press coverage through Young Enterprise.

Pupils form real companies, take on boardroom roles, raise finance by selling shares and pay dividends.

There has also been a wider emphasis on business throughout the curriculum, with language classes providing translation services and design and technology pupils building trade stands.

Most of the Young Enterprise competitors are Year 12 pupils, who do not have to study business to take part. Mr Williams has also introduced taster sessions to Year 9. Inspired by increasing rates of obesity, a team from Tre-Gib is producing an exercise DVD aimed at young people for this year's Young Enterprise competition. It features a classroom workout and an appearance by the paralympian Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.

Last year a team from Tre-Gib developed a virtual tour of Dylan Thomas's Wales on CD-Rom and defeated 3,500 other entries to become UK champions.

The school also came top in 2002 and seven pupils have been shortlisted for Young Business Woman of the Year, with three named overall winners.

"They know no boundaries," said Mr Williams, who won a Welsh teacher of the year award last summer. "But every year it gets more difficult because you've got to be innovative."

Underwood Visions, the company behind the Dylan Thomas CD-Rom, bought a shed and turned it into a replica of Thomas's writing shack at Laugharne to promote their business.

"We took it all the way to the ballroom of the Savoy Hotel in London for the final," said Mr Williams.

Bethan Walsh, 18, who was managing director of Underwood Visions, said:

"It's definitely helped with business studies, as I applied a lot of the skills to the A-level. I think the school's emphasis on enterprise is brilliant.

"It is a very rural school and quite small, but we are encouraged to take a risk and enjoy enterprise."

Bethan is now planning to study law and business at Cardiff University.

Lyn Clement, general secretary of the WSSA, said: "It's hugely impressive that the school has been named the most enterprising in Britain."

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