Innovative practice - Girls mean business

15th March 2013 at 00:00
Foster pupils' commercial acumen and entrepreneurial skills by setting up a business school within a school

The background

Encouraged by the ambitious parents of pupils from more than 20 countries, including China and Nigeria, Harrogate Ladies' College wanted to further strengthen its business studies. So principal Rhiannon Wilkinson and senior staff set up the HLC Business School.

"Not all the pupils will become entrepreneurs but they should all appreciate the importance of successful businesses for the world's economic health," Wilkinson says.

The project

The business school is based in the sixth-form centre and has four teaching rooms, a resources room and a cafe. It is used to teach A levels including business studies, applied business, accounting and economics. But is also the base for activities that give pupils in all years across the school an introduction to the world of entrepreneurship.

Years 7 to 9 have "enterprise days" when they are given talks by business consultants and have the chance to complete practical projects - one example was to design, make and sell a credit card holder.

In Year 10 they go up a gear and take part in an "apprentice challenge" scheme. Recent tasks have included researching and developing ideas for a new biscuit and its packaging; and finding ways of turning a profit from a #163;10 starter fund - something the pupils achieved by making and selling fruit smoothies and popcorn.

By the lower sixth, students are tested even further in the Leeds Enterprise Advisory Programme (Leap). Under the scheme, students, not all of whom are doing business A levels, are divided into small groups, which then form companies to develop and sell goods.

So far their products have included jewellery, hoodies, cups, water bottles, socks, gloves and fur headbands. The pupils put in their own "share capital". Last year their businesses had a total turnover of #163;6,500.

"The girls learn about running a business but it's not all about profit and loss," says Judith Grazier, the business school's director. "It's also about making and dealing with mistakes and developing resilience."

More than 20 senior businesswomen have visited the school to talk to the girls about the world of business, and pupils have done work experience at companies including Asda and Procter and Gamble.

Tips from the scheme

Make sure you have the full backing of the head and all senior staff, Grazier says.

Ask parents and local businesses for support.

Keep trying new ideas.

Evidence that it works?

The number of pupils studying business-related A levels has increased from 24 to 63 in the past two years. A third of sixth-formers go on to do a business-related university degree.

Thirty-six lower-sixth students (63 per cent) are directors of an enterprise company. The business school won the education initiative of the year category at the 2012 Independent School Awards.


Approach: Setting up an entrepreneurs' department at a girls' school

Leader: Principal Rhiannon Wilkinson


Name: Harrogate Ladies' College

Location: Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Pupils: 350

Age range: 11-18

Type: Independent girls' school - there is also a nursery and prep school

Intake: Diverse, more than 20 nationalities.

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