Cupcakes, burgers and pots of honey are on the menu. But this is not a picnic. Perhaps more like a road-side rest stop. A break from progress.
It’s been quite a journey, says social entrepreneur Lord Andrew Mawson reflecting on the trajectory of St Paul’s Way Trust School in Tower Hamlets from sink school to shining beacon.
He was speaking at JP Morgan in Canary Wharf where teenagers told stories of enticing passing trade in Borough market, assessing burger stand footfall, and pitching chocolate-coated dreams to Dragons.
The students took part in entrepreneurial programmes and summer internships supported by staff of JP Morgan, surprising everyone, most of all themselves, by their aptitude, ingenuity, application and zeal.
Two young designers display their fusion fashions, for example. They’re serious about making it big with Ziya London. They’re sourcing fabrics in Brick Lane and Green Street, squeezing clues from mentors and talking beading and branding like pros.
Lord Mawson said: “The talent is here in the east London. If we are going to build an enterprise economy in Britain I suggest it starts in streets like these and with children like these, who are going to build the jobs and business that make this country have a future. It begins here.
“I was at the school where they were doing a whole thing on the cosmetics industry. It was fascinating to see the link with the London College of Fashion coming to Olympicopolis, the link with the science of cosmetics, marketing, the business.
“You connect all of that in a classroom and with an enterprise programme in St Paul’s Way and it’s a sign, maybe of what the future looks like.”
Headteacher Hannora Loveday said: “By nurturing enterprise among our students we are developing more enterprising learners, more resilient learners and learners that are a premium for employers.”
Lord Mawson added: “We didn’t begin here. What we began with nine years ago was a failing school, a failing health centre, houses that were not getting built, a dependency culture – and a murder.
“We began to change the nature of the area and a more entrepreneurial culture began to emerge and as that was happening we developed this fantastic relationship with JP Morgan.
“JP Morgan understood as a major employer in the East End that if you are going to get jobs in this country and internationally then we needed to get to know each other. They understood they needed to invest in enterprise, entrepreneurship and young people.
“It’s been quite a journey. When we began with this school with only 35 families were applying, we were in the bottom 10% in Ofsted in the country.
“By getting hold of that, by joining the dots, the school has now got Outstanding in every category by Ofsted and this year we’ve had 1,200 families apply. I was told it’s one of the most sought after schools in Tower Hamlets .
“The future is about business and local communities coming together to drive and innovate and build enterprise and this is a leading example of what that means.”
JP Morgan’s Sam O’Neill said: “The students come into the organisation and they’re a bit quiet to start with, they get a bigger voice as the weeks pass, and by the end they’re confident and presenting to senior managers across the floor what they’ve learnt and the business problems they solve. And we use those results. It’s incredibly valuable feedback.”
What the students said
• "This project helped me to become more confident in my speaking and presenting skills.”
• "Pitching to a wide audience helped strengthen our confidence."
• "We got the help of entrepreneurs who will helped us enhanced our skills in presenting and understanding of the business world."
• "It was an extraordinary week when we had a chance to learn, network and, most importantly, have fun."
• "The scrumptious moment was when my colleagues and I were able to taste the fluffy creamy cupcakes."
• "I was tough. It was all a vast experience and it was fun."
• "There I was standing still and lonely waiting for someone to notice me. My only hope was my glowing smile."
• "The project encouraged me to explore outside my comfort zone. For instance, I would have not been able to stand here and present to all of you. It really helped me unlock my full potential."
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