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Rivers Academy: Local learning, global impact

Grant Thornton’s School Enterprise Programme encourages school pupils to develop business skills and offer microfinance to developing countries.

What if school children became entrepreneurs?

Grant Thornton and Rivers Academy West London in Feltham have pioneered an innovative new programme tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of children. These school children are enabling small business owners in developing countries to access microfinance to establish and grow local businesses.

In the Philippines, Verna is the owner of an internet café. She has benefitted from a microfinance loan, seeking additional investment to buy new computers and games.

It turns out that her loan was part funded by enthusiastic young entrepreneurs from Rivers Academy West London in Feltham.

These generous children chose Verna as the recipient of the profits from their own micro-business. Through lenders like them, Verna can buy what she needs to attract more customers to her café.

Our School Enterprise Programme (SEP) helps young pupils in Year 7 (11-12 year olds) develop their financial and entrepreneurial skills. Through games and exercises, they learn about what an entrepreneur is and how running a business affects the communities and the world around them.

The children practically apply their knowledge, creating their own micro-business concepts and then operating them. This means they can invest the money they raise into an entrepreneur in the developing world through microfinance.

One pupil commented: ‘It was a really good experience for all of us because we learned so many new things. Most of us hadn’t heard of ‘entrepreneur’ so it was really beneficial because, if we did want to start our own business, we know how to get the help we need.’

Rivers Academy West London became the first school to run the Grant Thornton SEP. The Academy itself is a diverse educational community with over 60 spoken languages and a strong ethos to raise pupils’ aspirations. The opportunity to nurture pupils’ leadership, team and communication skills appealed to the school and they agreed to run the SEP as part of their curriculum for Year 7.

Tim Wormald, Coordinator of Wellbeing, ran the pilot at Rivers Academy West London and commented on how pupils benefitted as a result of participating in the SEP.

‘Support from companies like Grant Thornton is so meaningful to our pupils. Your intervention opens up possibilities previously unseen by 11 year olds who may not have even ventured outside of Feltham, let alone running a business on a small scale,’ he said.

Rivers Academy made full use of the SEP’s educational resources. The programme includes three lessons for teachers to deliver in the classroom and a workshop where company volunteers encourage pupils to develop and pitch their business ideas to each other.

To ensure motivation following the workshop, our volunteers offered mentoring support for these budding entrepreneurs. The volunteers’ real-world business knowledge helped to ground the children’s ideas in a practical way while encouraging them to consider what they needed to do next to make their ideas a reality.