Skip to main content

Stand out schools for...enterprise and entrepreneurship

Which schools are combining academic with enterprise learning to produce school leavers who are truly prepared for a global employment market? Kate Hilpern reports.


‘There is some excellent work going on in schools around enterprise and entrepreneurship, but it’s patchy and inconsistent,’ reports Margaret Ambrose, spokesperson for Young Enterprise, a charity that works with schools, colleges and universities to improve enterprise skills among young people.

‘It matters because these skills are increasingly important for young people when they leave full-time education and because the confidence youngsters get from getting involved in enterprise programmes like ours can be huge,’ she says.

In the meantime, we set out to find out which are the best schools at developing this mindset. What approaches are they taking? And what impact is it having on the youngsters themselves?

Milton Abbey, Dorset

‘Milton Abbey runs the innovative Entrepreneurship in Residence competition, aiming to inspire pupils with ambitions to launch their own business,’ reports our GSG reviewer about this co-ed day and boarding school. ‘Top-notch designers like Anya Hindmarch, Johnnie Boden and Cath Kidston and Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross have all fronted the scheme.’

The annual competition, which awards £2000 to the most marketable and well researched business idea, is open to all pupils. ‘There’s an entrepreneurial element in the Milton Abbey DNA, partly because we are a young school – under 60-years-old,’ explains headmaster Magnus Bashaarat. ‘So that means we are more likely to produce self-starters and creative entrepreneurial people than establishment politicians and diplomats. This competition is a way to celebrate that.’

Last year’s winner is still successfully manufacturing door stops from off-cuts from fireplaces, while the previous winner continues to import and sell Brazilian liqueur. ‘This year’s winner is a girl who is making washbags out of recycled, reclaimed materials,’ says Bashaarat.

Unlike some boarding schools, students do work experience – ‘usually with school alumni (an Inner Temple barrister and a Coutts banker were among those who volunteered this year),’ reports our GSG reviewer. The school also has an Entrepreneur in Residence – this year, it’s Annoushka Ducas, co-founder of Links of London and jewellery brand, Annoushka. 

And unusually for an independent school, Milton Abbey offers a BTec in Understanding Enterprise and Entrepreneurship – a two year course starting in the first year of sixth-form. ‘We got rid of business studies A level, which seemed to be a lot of writing up of case studies with very little practical learning, whereas the BTec is all about learning what it’s actually like to start up and run your own business,’ explains Bashaarat..

Stowe, Buckingham

‘A privileged education for those for whom more conventional schools might feel too much like a straitjacket,’ is how our GSG reviewer sums up this co-ed independent boarding school. ‘Children need to find their passion and drive, to be inspired and to inspire, to appreciate the beauty of life, to be creative, to find their utopia. And that’s what we do at Stowe, awakening pupils’ enthusiasm and excitement and igniting the spark,’ headmaster Dr Anthony Wallersteiner told us.

No wonder that teaching entrepreneurship is embedded throughout the curriculum and enhanced through extracurricular activities and guest speaker visits. ‘Teaching staff and students are exposed to only the most up-to-date teaching resources in case studies available,’ says head of careers, Gordon West. ‘And students that are not studying the business A level – which, by the way, is the most popular A level at the school now - can also access these.’

It helps, he says, that ‘teaching staff come from varied backgrounds including self-employed, SMEs and the more traditional teaching routes. This offers students insights into how economic and business cycles have influenced sectors that they may not think about.’

And with entrepreneurial alumni including the likes of Richard Branson and Marc Koska, there’s no shortage of inspiration. In fact, the Richard Branson award – the winner of which gets a week’s work experience with Branson himself – attracts some very innovative ideas, says West. ‘One winner started up a successful meat packing distribution business in the States after identifying a gap in the market for top quality mail order beef. And the most recent winner created a fanzine for The Saints football club (Southampton), establishing himself as the go-to-multi-media outlet for Southampton fans by building the site “Oh when the Saints”.’

Avenue Cookery School
The Schools at Somerhill
Sevenoaks School
County Homesearch

Ilfracombe Academy, North Devon

A book company called ‘Save Our World,’ which has produced three children’s books to show the effects of plastic pollution on marine and sea life, is proving a big hit among businesses and members of the public – and not just in the UK, but in Spain, Israel and even Australia. Now on its fifth print run, it’s all down to the work of this co-ed state secondary school’s Young Enterprise Company Programme team, which is made up of 15 year 12 students.

‘The students had to create, market and sell their product – no mean feat, considering they get absolutely no financial contribution from either the school or Young Enterprise,’ says Richard Vale, who oversees the project.

Vale, who works closely with the Rotary club and other local organisations to provide both leadership and voluntary opportunities, as well as business advice, explains that Ilfracombe is in a rural and isolated location. ‘The catchment, although relatively large, is somewhat deprived in terms of affluence and job opportunities. Giving our students ways and means to access different experiences of business and learn financial and commercial skills is a vital part of what we strive to do.’

The team of pupils, which Young Enterprise describes as ‘extremely professional, focused and enthusiastic,’ are studying a mixture of subjects, with some but not all doing a business studies BTec. ‘Quite a few have been nominated for awards and very quiet student, who previously wouldn’t say boo to a goose, is now doing radio interviews and contacting television programmes to discuss the book.’

Moreton Hall, Shropshire

‘Moreton Enterprises is a unique business venture consisting of a shopping mall run entirely by the girls. There is a branch of Barclays Bank and home-grown shops selling everything from stationary to records. The girls have business mentors, but basically the lower sixth operates as a small business turning over £50,000 a year. It is seriously impressive. Moreton Connect aims to create a network of Old Moretonians (OM) and parent contacts for careers advice and work experience opportunities.’ Impressive stuff from our GSG review of this independent school for girls aged from 11 to 18 with a linked junior school.

And there’s more. The Director’s Table is a new initiative this academic year, involving the year 12 Moreton Enterprises Team attending a series of lectures from top enterprise bods on subjects such as women in leadership, preparing for careers which don’t yet exist and managing change – whether that’s switching degree choices at university or how to manage redundancy.

The brainchild of OM businesswoman Clare Downes, the concept of The Director’s Table was based on ‘introducing our young entrepreneurs to real life issues and areas to consider, regardless of their career choice, through conversation and engagement with successful business women,’ explains Caroline Lang, senior sixth form tutor. ‘It all takes place in a pavilion slightly away from the school – that’s important as this is about their journey of leaving school and becoming work-ready. It’s not about “what I want to be and how I can get the practical skills to get there”, but “how I can prepare for the ups and downs ahead”.’

The team ‘absolutely love’ being part of the conversation with these exciting, inspiring women who have brought the real world of work into the school environment, says Lang.

North Chadderton School, Lancashire

Winner of the 2017 TES Entrepreneurial Schools Award, this co-ed state secondary school grabs every opportunity it can to further entrepreneurial skills of all its pupils. Even 11-year-olds sell products and services to the local community.

‘We have always had a strong and popular business studies department, with teachers who really want to enthuse pupils about enterprise,’ says business curriculum leader, Amanda Marsh. ‘With the help of the senior leadership team at the school, this love of enterprise has now developed into a whole school initiative so that no pupil leaves the school without being work and life ready.’

There’s no shortage of partnerships with businesses such as KPMG, PwC and the Pennine Health Trust. The school participates in all Young Enterprise events ranging from accountancy masterclasses at PricewaterhouseCoopers to the Tenner Challenge run within the school. And the Young Enterprise Company Programme team attends workshops and trading opportunities to help develop their soft skills in business.

‘We believe that being involved in enterprise at a young age will inspire our next generation of entrepreneurs and will hopefully give those pupils enthusiasm about school in general,’ says Marsh, who says Justine Greening MP (previous Secretary State of Education) came to talk to the pupils as a result of hearing about the school’s commitment to enterprise - and Andy Haldane (chief economist of the Bank of England) has also given a talk to pupils. Trips also form a major focus of the school, with pupils regularly visiting local, national and international businesses across Europe.

The TES reports, ‘They have a real desire to create well rounded students who have both the academic and the business skills to compete in the world or business and are looking to better the future generations through programmes and schemes of work throughout their education.’

Grasby All Saints Primary School, Lincolnshire

It’s not that often you hear of primary schools standing out for entrepreneurialism, but here’s an exception.

Angela Rowlands, the school’s year 5 and 6 teacher, says it’s all thanks to the Fiver Challenge. ‘This is a Young Enterprise initiative in which children are each given £5. They have a month to make as much money as possible either in individually or in groups,’ she explains. ‘Awards are given for community involvement, most inspirational, most profit and best individual – and in the four years that the school’s been running it, we’ve won three times.’

The first time, an eco-group won best community engagement award. The second year, a team called Perfect Plays organised and promoted a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream - they won the Best Group Award and the local TV company Estuary TV came to film the production. And in 2017 one pupil won the best individual award. ‘She made pompoms - a whole variety of different colours and styles, which she is still selling. Another group came runners up in the best group award for promoting healthy eating,’ says Rowlands.

The children do all their own marketing and ideas and products are developed both in school time and at home, with opportunities to sell initiated by the groups themselves. ‘These have ranged from deliveries of fresh bread direct to the door to stalls at local markets and from selling in the local pub to trading at sporting events and at school. The largest selling bonanza was an afternoon in the village where all the groups set up in the village hall after negotiating use of the premises for free.’

‘We are a small, rural school but this does not hold us back – we are small, but mighty,’ says Rowlands.

Watford Grammar School for Girls, Hertfordshire

This girls’ grammar school is bursting with entrepreneurial activity. This year alone, two successful companies have hit the ground running.

EcoCosmetic produces environmentally-friendly cosmetics, with products including rose and lavender soap, rose bath bombs and make-up bags. ‘We learned quickly how to handle large amounts of responsibility, work together and meet deadlines efficiently,’ one of the students told us. The company has sold their products at a number of events and have marketed via a dedicated Instagram channel and their own website.

Meanwhile, Certi produced a children’s book with a powerful message. ‘Inspired by the diversity of the school,’ the students said they wanted to create a book which would ‘teach children to celebrate their differences’. Their book, ‘A Princess Like Me’, follows a princess called Zaelia located on the planet Zorg. She has been given the role of princess but is unsure of what to do. With the help of a hippo called Hoff, she travels to earth to see what makes a good princess. On her journey, seven different princesses from different ethnic backgrounds teach her lessons in kindness, happiness, determination, honesty, forgiveness, respect and equality. Encouraged by the positive response to their first book, the students are now working on further publications - ‘A Prince Like Me’ and ‘A World Like Mine’ – a book about environmental issues.

‘Our school has a well-established Young Enterprise programme for our Y12 students and this year’s students have worked with a business advisor, who kindly volunteers his time to support the students,’ says Robert Houslin, lead teacher of business. ‘Both of the companies – EcoCosmetic and Certi - have been very successful and have progressed to the Herts County Final of the national Young Enterprise competition.’

Devonport High School for Boys, Plymouth

‘There are now so many more opportunities for the boys; by the time they leave they are not just academically wise, but worldly too,’ says our GSG reviewer of this boys’ city grammar school – and enterprise forms a huge part of this.

Right from the off, boys have business and enterprise lessons. ‘This not only helps them in other subjects, but encourages a big take-up of computer science and business studies at GCSE,’ says Alan Jenkins head of enterprise education.

Perhaps even more exciting is the dedicated space set up within the school for enterprise that many of them winding up utilising. ‘All boys with a business idea are aligned with a teacher with the relevant skill set to help them develop it and we help them get access to other business mentoring too, thanks to some great local business partnerships. It pays off, with many of them having developed businesses they continue to run alongside their studies – with some pursuing them when they leave school instead of going to university. It’s all about getting them to drive their own futures,’ he says.

One sixth-former has created a successful fudge business, while another group is working on developing land skis. ‘They were told quite early on that they probably wouldn’t succeed, but this just made them keener and even by exploring the challenges, it’s clear there may be things that spin off it. They’ve learned so much from practising business pitches, getting legal advice about how much they can give away about their ideas and how to crowdfund.’

No boy is given any financial aid, but they are taught about how to access funding and share ownership. ‘It makes them very accountable,’ says Jenkins, who reports that confidence among boys that get involved has soared.

Clarendon School, Hampton

An ‘innovative and hugely successful activity’ here is cycle maintenance, says our GSG reviewer of this state special school for boys and girls aged from 5 to 16. ‘In a corner of the school there is an enormous stash of bicycles that have been picked up by the police and Richmond Borough Council (they give the school about a 100 bikes a term). A cycle maintenance tutor helps students to restore the bikes to their former glory before being sold on eBay. Pupils come in from other schools to help work on the bikes and there are lots of cycling activities.’

‘The bike course has helped me very much in helping me to concentrate in class and I also used it in my application to college,’ says one of the students. ‘I am sure it helped me to be accepted.’

This student, like many others, has benefited enormously from the scheme, confirms Laurence Balcombe, coordinator and cycle tutor for the Bespoke Be Heard scheme. ‘His head of year says his work ethic and focus have been vastly improved through the opportunity to explore his passion. It has helped him to gain a focus within himself and to experience success and develop basic skills into more complex skills. This has transferred into other subjects as he has shown a willingness to learn new skills and apply them with a positive attitude.’

Eagley Junior School, Greater Manchester

The so-called ‘tin can twins’ have celebrity status at this co-ed junior school. Having collected every tin can they could by all means possible, these year 4 pupils then upcycled them with durable paints and sold them on as pen pots. And they’re not the only pupils who have created thriving micro-businesses. ‘One girl in year 3 collected pebbles to decorate to look like animals and people and she sells them on, while current pupil projects include turning jam jars into tea lights and making bird houses from scratch,’ says Dan Warbrick, year 3 teacher, who oversees enterprise in the school.

Like many primary schools, Eagley runs the Fiver Challenge – whereby each child is given £5 to start up a viable business of their choosing – but unlike many primary schools, they’re trying to move away from the predicable cake sales. ‘The challenge started off as a class project for year 4s and 5s, but we’ve now opened it up to the whole school and turned it into a competition. Really good ideas that us teachers would never have thought of are coming through, with one having won an award and others coming close.’

The challenge creates a huge buzz among pupils, he says. ‘I give pupils lunchtime sessions to talk about how we can support them, but they have to do everything else on their own, from market research to marketing – and we even charge them for a stall at the summer fair, which they have to factor into their budget, so it’s treated like an actual business.’

It’s all too easy for primary schools to get bogged down with English and maths, he says. ‘But we want pupils to leave with other useful life skills – working together, managing money and so on.’

Highcrest Academy, Buckinghamshire

Winner of the 2016 TES Entrepreneurial Schools Award, this co-ed state secondary school joined 16 other winners from schools all over Europe. And in 2017, five year 10 students and two teachers were flown to an international trade fair in Lithuania after inventing a new gadget to give people a cheap way to hook up neon lighting. The students were part of a Young Enterprise company called Mörk Valo formed at the academy. The company sold dozens of the kit, which retailed at £4.99 but cost just £2.89 to produce. Highcrest was one of just three UK schools among the 50-strong group of companies at the event.

The school’s belief in preparing students for the world of work is probably best illustrated though through its partnership with Johnson & Johnson. A unique three-year project, called Bridge To Employment, between Highcrest and the healthcare giants was launched in February 2016. Volunteers from the firm act as mentors to guide students through various activities and sessions. A report from the University of Derby revealed this year that the scheme has been a factor in improved science and language grades, as well as enhanced confidence in career planning and team-work skills.

Over the past year, the school has run two Young Enterprise teams - a year 12 team called SoundSafe which created and sold quality wooden earphone tidies and a year 10 team called Crystalite, pictured, which created hand-grown crystal candle holders. And this April, the academy's success story continued as it came second in a Sales Apprentice Challenge competition.

‘The academy understands that in addition to achieving impressive academic results, our students need to have all the skills needed to succeed in the world of work,’ explains careers lead Rob Evans.

Do you know of any other innovative examples of schools bringing enterprise and entrepreneurship  to life? Tell us your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #chalkandchat

Photo credits: All images courtesy of the relevant schools.

Chalk & Chat 2018


No comments received for Stand out schools for...enterprise and entrepreneurship

Please login to post a comment.

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents