Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs

Posted on 1st Apr 2019 in School News, Prep Schools Guide

Girls at Croydon High Junior School GDST are encouraged to take on 21st century challenges with confidence....

At Croydon High Junior School GDST, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to prepare our girls for the world of the future. A study carried out by Dell Technologies in 2017 estimated that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. Similarly, the acknowledged likelihood is that these children will be far more likely to work in dynamic small business and start-ups, rather than the large organisations that provided ‘jobs for life’ for their grandparents. We are already seeing this trend with our own girls with one recent leaver starting a company alongside her A-levels, before heading off for university.

Young people need to be equipped with the ability to problem solve in collaboration with others, an understanding of the power of technology and the imagination and confidence to develop their own applications for technology as designers rather than users.

Croydon High girls are presented with a myriad of opportunities to build these skills, both within the curriculum and as part of a vibrant extra-curricular programme. The Bebras Computing Challenge for example, introduces computational thinking to students. It is organised in over 40 countries and designed to get students all over the world excited about problem solving.

Last year every girl in Years 2 to 6 at Croydon High, took part in the Bebras Challenge with over half of them achieving Distinction or Merit awards.

Another example is the school’s participation in the Raspberry Pi competition, backed by Technology and Innovation Consultants, PA. This initiative challenges children to utilise the Raspberry Pi – a computer the size of credit-card – to invent something that will help ‘save the planet’.

Croydon High’s team, The ‘Ivy Crusaders’, (the school’s emblem is the Ivy ... but that is another story) was made up of a group of three girls from Year 4. These girls chose to take part and developed their idea, a water flow meter, in their own time, out of school.

The Ivy Crusaders were one of only three teams to be invited to the national final. Their preparations for the event which took place at the beginning of the summer term last year, were made more challenging by the fact that the three girls spent the Easter holiday in three different countries! Technology came to the rescue and with the help of Skype and Google Slides, they worked in collaboration and managed to create a wholly impressive presentation for the judges.

(Anyone who has worked in a small business will recognise the ingenuity and flexibility demonstrated by the girls in order to meet a deadline. These skills will stand them in good stead!)

Apart from presenting to the judges, the girls had to explain their project to a number of guests and industry professionals. They certainly ‘wowed’ everyone with their confidence and subject knowledge, but what was most impressive was they took feedback into account and improvised their ideas on the go. (An idea for a simple ‘flow meter’ evolved into a ‘smart flow meter’ by the end of the evening. Ultimately, it became a meter that would trigger an alarm if too much water was used, introduced a competition element between family members to see who used the least amount of water and even turned the water cold if the tap was left running for more than a certain amount of time. Patent those ideas, girls! )

Similarly, Year 6 girls spend much of their final year in the junior school involved in learning experiences that prepare them not only for their immediate future as senior school students, but also for their longer term life aspirations. One of the many advantages of an all-through (3-18) independent school, is that Year 6 is not taken up with endless prepping for Entrance Tests. Instead, the girls are free to spend time involved in creative and innovative projects that help them become independent learners and which broaden their intellectual horizons.

A perfect example of this is the Year 6 Enterprise Challenge. Working in teams over the course of the autumn term, girls conduct market research, write business plans, film advertisements and finally (the learning objective which began the whole project) build websites to market their own new business idea.

Their efforts culminate in a Trade Fair style event, with girls literally setting up their stalls to pitch their business ideas to the parent body and, most importantly, to five expert judges. This year the judges included IT professionals, an ex-Mayor of Croydon and our Head Judge, from the business division at Goldman Sachs. They were hugely impressed by the presentations, commenting that the body language of the girls as they confidently delivered their pitches, made it easy to forget that they were just 10 and 11 years old.

Inspired by the Enterprise Challenge project, this year a team of nine enthusiastic participants took part in the Fiver Challenge organised by Young Enterprise. The girls were given £5 each to start a business.

The Croydon High Go Green ‘N’ Keep Clean team, as they called themselves, aimed to create an awareness of sustainability in the local community, investing their money in biodegradable pots and seeds to sell plant kits and encouraging the idea of ‘grow your own’. They negotiated free compost from the local recycle centre and made bags out of newspapers for their packaging. A ‘blooming’ great idea which generated growth in every sense, not least in the confidence levels of the girls who participated.

The earlier reference to the ivy as the school’s emblem is associated with founder Dorinda Neligan, a formidable campaigner and suffragette who led Croydon High from 1874 to 1902, Legend has it that before she took her girls to their first GDST Prizegiving in London, she pulled some ivy from the wall and instructed them to wear it in their hair so they would be recognised as ‘Croydon High girls’.

In the competitive job market of the future it will take more than unusual hair accessories to help differentiate young women from their peers. It remains true, however, that the skills and opportunities developed at Croydon High Junior School will ensure that a Croydon High girl will always stand out from the crowd.

This article first appeared in John Catt's Preparatory Schools 2019. You can view this guidebook here: