Let's get down to business

20th April 2007 at 01:00
As a teacher, you tend to think business is just about making money. But it's also about creativity, integrity and reliability, and getting pupils interested in it can change their lives.

I had heard how successful the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) had been in New York by re-engaging disaffected youths and helping them set up their own businesses, and now it is established in the UK as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

I thought it could work for my girls' school. There are some pupils who aren't suited to traditional academic subjects and you have to find something that will fire them up. When we arrived on our course, we were given objects and told to trade them with other people.

You soon learn you can't crush the opposition. You have to negotiate and work to everyone's benefit. I found the course inspiring. It taught us how to get a scheme up and running, and how to make sure it's a success. The pupils have to come up with a great idea, produce a business plan and handle the marketing and the sales. It's a big ask and you need to support them without interfering too much.

As well as the courses for teachers, there are events for pupils, including trade fairs, summer business camps and a national competition. I'm proud to say that two of our school companies recently won prizes. Their idea of selling graffiti art is a perfect business concept - simple yet original.

And they have turned a handsome profit.

I can't believe the impact the scheme's had on our school. More than 60 pupils have opted to take part - and it has transformed their attitude.

They're punctual and motivated. Teach children about profit margins in an economics lesson and they fall asleep. But when the money is for real, it's a different story Nigel Straker is assistant headteacher at Walthamstow School for Girls, in north-east London. He was talking to Steven Hastings

The details

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in the UK runs courses for teachers who are interested in helping students set up businesses. There's a one-day course (pound;245) for business studies teachers and a two-day course (Pounds 345) for other teachers. Dates and venues can be found at www.nfte.co.uk.

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