My 10 year old son is now an entrepreneur. He and his friends are in my kitchen, making stress balls filled with rice, ready to sell at school next week. There ‘s rice on the table, rice on the floor, rice everywhere.
It’s a tradition at his primary school that Year 6 spend that limbo time between the end of SATs and the start of the summer holidays setting up and running their own small businesses. Organising themselves into teams of no more than four, they have to come up with a product idea, market test it by cornering the younger kids in the playground and firing questions at them till they run away, and then pitch their concept to the Ministry of Business (aka the teachers).
If they’re successful, they’ll win seed funding to the tune of £2 per team member. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. All profits are split between the school and a Year 6 treat.
For the kids, it’s a brilliant introduction to the joys and frustrations of business. My son and his fellow Stressballeers are in a competitive marketplace – they’re up against two other teams selling flour-based stress balls. They’ve had to learn about sourcing raw materials at the right cost and quality, setting prices, marketing, selling, and organising themselves as a team, all while keeping an eye on the finances.
There’s been low points: the first day, customers seemed to prefer their stress balls filled with flour and they sold just one, prompting heated debates about whether they needed a change of product strategy. And high points: the very next day they sold out of stock.
While Michael Gove obsesses about rote learning and academic standards, I’d love to see more initiatives like this. As the world of work changes, and young people increasingly face a tough start to their working lives, giving them the tools and experience they need to build their own careers has to be a good thing.
If my son finishes formal learning with the insight that he can create his own opportunities, some understanding of the risks and challenges he’ll face, and the confidence to persevere in overcoming them, I’d call that a Good Education.
Over to you! What are your thoughts on preparing our kids for business?