Virgin boss invests in North-East entrepreneurs of tomorrow

First published in Business News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

PRIMARY school pupils are pushing ahead with their business plans after receiving investment from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money.

Four schools in Darlington are taking part in the Newcastle based bank’s Make £5 Grow project.

Under the project, delivered by the Newcastle Education Business Partnership (EBP), with support from Foundation for Jobs, each pupil in a class is “loaned” £5.

The pupils then have to develop and make products they can sell, with any profits retained by the school after the loan is repaid to the bank, headed up by Sir Richard Branson.

The aim is to get children thinking about enterprise and business skills at a young age so they form part of their development moving forward.

Mowden Junior School in Darlington has already completed the first part of the project by producing Christmas decorations that they have since sold to the public and look set to turn a profit on.

Following the Christmas break they will go on to develop two further products which will be sold to the public.

Deputy headteacher Alistair Johnson said: “I think the children have really enjoyed it, it is nice for them to meet with people that have come in from outside of school to put things.

“We have always done projects where we encourage the children to come up with their own ideas.

“The difference this time is we have something to sell as part of it, it has been real cash and they have been able to buy materials, make products and deal with the real issues of profit and loss, there is a realism about it.”

Mr Johnson also believed it was important to develop the children’s understanding of business at a young age.

He said: “It is only when you are older that you see limitations, the children don’t have those limits.

“It is important to get these basics into their heads at an early age before they start seeing them.”

One of the key aims of Foundation for Jobs, a joint initiative to combat youth unemployment involving The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council and The Darlington Partnership, is to build links between schools and business.

Around 950 schoolchildren have been involved in Foundation for Jobs projects which create those links since April this year.

Children who have links with industry while at school are up to five times less likely to be unemployed at 25.

Mowden still has Christmas decorations available. Anyone who would like to purchase them should contact the school on 01325-380820.

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