How scholars rose to the challenge

10th July 2009 at 01:00

When considering the skills that we, as teachers and parents, should be trying to develop in the young people who will soon be leaving our schools, some or all of the following may come to mind: creative thinking, teamwork, business planning and project management, an understanding of the relationship between risk capital and reward, hard work and a sense of corporate social responsibility.

That is exactly what has happened in a small number of schools in Scotland which have just completed the Scholars' Challenge. The aim was twofold - to provide an important educational experience and to raise money for The Prince's Trust in Scotland. The challenge raised Pounds 150,000.

Several schools were invited to prepare a business plan showing how they would convert Pounds 3,000 into Pounds 20,000. They were asked to present their plan to a panel of entrepreneurs, who also contributed advice and encouragement. The schools received further help from project managers in some of Scotland's top business consultancies and support from school staff. But, ultimately, the success or failure of each school was down to the students themselves.

Seven schools entered; three presented to the judges. Dollar Academy was crowned the eventual winner, having raised a total of Pounds 83,000, with fundraising continuing. Bishopbriggs Academy received an outstanding achievement award for its hard work and determination. Although the final amount raised is important, it was not the sole criterion on which they were judged.

The energy and enthusiasm of these children was striking, not to mention the originality of some of the ideas. These included gala dinners, corporate golf days, merchandising, links with the Homecoming and many more. Not all of these ideas worked, but is that not true of the "real world"?

The teams were not short of challenges, and plans were revised as they learned what works and what does not. The last nine months have not been an easy time to be in business or raising money, but persistence and impressive powers of persuasion brought rewards. It helped, of course, that the students believed in the cause and responded to the idea of competition with other schools.

The Prince's Trust is an important charity which does a great deal of good for young people whose lives have, for one reason or another, drifted or gone off course. The students in the schools have seen what the trust can do and, perhaps because they are not much younger, in some cases not younger at all, than the people it helps, they can empathise and can see exactly why their support is important.

Most, if not all, schools already do a great deal in terms of raising money for charity. But this is different. It is the first time for all the participants that they have had to account for serious financial investment. For most, it is also the first time they have had to consider project management as an important skill. It is a new kind of pressure, quite different from the familiar, though equally real, pressure of examinations.

Ian Templeton is the former warden of Glenalmond College, and a member of the steering group for the Scholars' Challenge.

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