P7s show their business talents

11th June 2004 at 01:00
At one enterprising school, two classes mixed, matched talents to jobs and shot to stardom, writes Karen Shead

From coffee shops to craft stalls, business has been booming at Pitreavie Primary in Fife as P7 pupils learn all about the world of commerce.

They have set up companies, taken on lofty jobs as managing directors, financial executives and quality control officers and seen their business plans mature.

The climax has been their staging of a full-scale musical, Calamity Jane, at the beginning of this week. Every pupil had a role, whether it was acting, directing, organising the sets, lights and costumes or selling tickets.

The idea was inspired by a lunchtime variety show set up by one of the P7 companies. It proved very popular and the potential to expand it was recognised.

"The children have been in charge of publicity, set design, selling tickets, doing lights I the whole shebang," explains class teacher June Bouaoun. "And all of this was a spin-off from the enterprise project we did at the beginning of this session."

Mrs Bouaoun and fellow P7 teacher Rosemary Anderson were sent on enterprise training organised by the Scottish Executive and Fife Council. "It was very successful. It gave us the opportunity to talk to other teachers and we came back thinking about what we could do," says Mrs Bouaoun.

They decided to combine their classes, split them into eight mixed ability groups and set them working together for eight weeks on a profit-making business. They felt that mixing children who had never worked together before would also be good preparation for their transition to high school.

Two trophies would be awarded at the end: an enterprise cup for the most profitable group and a design and innovation cup for the most original idea.

As well as teaching the pupils about business, key learning objectives were identified in personal and social development, language, maths, art and design, information and communications technology and citizenship.

At the beginning of the project, guest speaker Anthony Winnie, head of marketing at Lauder College, gave a presentation on advertising and customer identification and Sheena Edwards, a business manager at the Bank of Scotland, talked about finance in business. That was followed by a brainstorming session.

The children learned about advertising, bookkeeping and report writing, and they had to evaluate their individual strengths and weaknesses prior to taking on different business roles. This helped to raise the self-esteem of less confident pupils, whose talents were recognised.

Each group had to produce a business plan, outlining everyone's role, their financial aims, production processes and marketing techniques, to gain teacher approval before securing financial backing. "They were given a pound;5 bursary and a pound;5 loan from the school," says Mrs Bouaoun.

"The idea was that they would pay back the loan out of their profits."

Just before Christmas the companies were opened for business. There was a cafe for pupils, a coffee shop for teachers, a lunchtime variety show, a disco and a range of stalls selling cards, bookmarks, gift tags and friendship bracelets.

Jaspreet Kandola, aged 11, who was the musical director for the lunchtime show, enjoyed the project. "I thought it was a really good idea. We had to sort everything out properly and learned a lot. It was a fun way to raise money."

Twelve-year-old Laura Duncan, managing director of the Cool School Cafe, admits there were highs and lows. "I enjoyed setting up the cafe, getting the tea and the cakes ready and serving people. But I didn't enjoy all of the planning we had to do before it.

"It helped us learn more about business and made us realise the difficulties you can have. The hardest thing was that we only had pound;10 to start."

Her sales director, Amanda Richards, also 12, says: "It was interesting and I would like to do it again. And the money made paid for us to go to the Museum of Flight, which was really good."

Mrs Bouaoun says the children responded positively to the challenge of running their own businesses. "Pupils quickly took ownership of their own learning experiences and it provided valuable learning opportunities for all abilities. It has contributed to the personal and social development of all pupils, raised attainment across the curriculum and helped children to acquire skills for life."

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