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Tests revealbest brains for business

Students showing entrepreneurial promise are being identified using psychometric tests comparing their profiles with those of successful business people.

Six Scottish secondaries are involved in piloting the initiative for S2 pupils, run by the Mindscreen Entrepreneurial Spirit Programme (ESP).

The project has now received the imprimatur of Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, who this week visited Drummond community high in Edinburgh, one of the schools involved.

The Minister believes this can help his broader agenda. "By targeting youngsters who show a flair for business, we can help them to develop their skills as well as increasing their motivation in the classroom.

"The early years of secondary school are a critical point in a young person's education. It's vital to keep them engaged if they are to achieve their full potential," he said.

Mindscreen, an independent company, aims to improve the self-confidence and motivation of entrepreneurial students. It provides learning materials for both pupils and teachers and develops a "learning-by-doing experience" of starting and operating a business via the process of identifying an opportunity, assessing risks and potential rewards.

Fourth-year pupils at Drummond gave a presentation to the Minister of their business development plan, which they have been working on for nine months.

The pupils plan to create Scotland's first entertainment complex designed by young people for young people, to be known as Subzero.

The pupils' limited company (registered in England as no one under 16 can register a limited company in Scotland) is seeking discussions with Edinburgh City Council and potential partners, including an experienced leisure operator, to secure funding and a suitable property for Subzero, which they hope will cater for 2,000 members between the ages of 12 and 17.

The aim is that the complex will be run by the young people in partnership with adults and will include facilities from a recording studio, a dance zone and a skate zone to chill-out areas, a games arcade, shops and a healthy eating and drinks bistro.

In a question and answer session with the Minister, pupils said they had already raised pound;500 themselves by buying and selling items on the internet auction site eBay and that they spent an average of seven hours of their own time every week working on the project, though some of their peers seemed to think that they were only interested in money and had nicknamed them "The Tory Club".

Douglas Follan, the school's depute head, said he believed the psychometric tests were accurate indicators of business potential and that all S2 results were fed into guidance profiles and also informed pupils' course choices.

While praising the Enterprise in Education programme, Gavin Devereux, Mindscreen's managing director, said his objective went beyond embedding enterprise across the curriculum.

"What we also need is a separate and recognised subject called enterprise education, which pupils can opt into. Ideally, we should have enterprise schools for pupils who display the entrepreneurial spirit," he said.

The ESP pilot started in August 2002 and will end in December. The Executive has provided pound;170,000 funding through the Future Learning and Teaching (FLAT) programme.

Other schools taking part are Wester Hailes education centre and Castlebrae community high, in Edinburgh; Grange and Cumnock academy, East Ayrshire; and Milne's academy, Moray.

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