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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Young entrepreneurs compete in Cumbria social enterprise challenge

BUDDING business stars have battled it out in a bid to be crowned Cumbria’s most enterprising school.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters in Penrith played host to the Cumbria final of the 2014 Giving Nation Challenge on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday saw four special schools – James Rennie, Mayfield, Sandside Lodge and Sandgate - go head-to-head in pitching their social enterprise business ideas to two judges, while on Friday it was the turn of Kirkbie Kendal, the Queen Katherine School, Keswick School, Dowdales, St Bernard’s Catholic High School, West Lakes Academy and Ullswater Community College.

The scheme in Cumbria, where the teams’ challenge was to identify a need within their local community and set up a social enterprise to meet that need, is run in partnership between the Citizenship Foundation, Cumbria County Council’s Children’s Services and Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership.

Despite all schools delivering impressive pitches, Sandside Lodge claimed the special schools crown and Penrith’s Ullswater Community College and St Bernard’s Catholic High School in Barrow were jointly awarded the honours on Friday.

Ulverston’s Sandside Lodge School’s social enterprise involved sourcing, decorating and selling slate in the form of house number signs or personal greetings and messages. Profit from the sales is being donated to the RNLI.

Ullswater’s team of four Year 7 girls created a community café called ‘Your Time Café’ for parents and children in the Bridge at Penrith Methodist Church which has a room downstairs for the children to play in while parents can relax in the café with a free cup of tea. The idea is to give parents the opportunity to have a quick break from the demands of constant childcare.

St Bernard’s Year 9 pupils Little Owls social enterprise meanwhile is aimed at encouraging a love of reading in primary school pupils by producing ‘Little Owl’ books for the children to read and creating toy and chocolate Little Owl characters for sale. The pupils set up links with a local primary school to take in their books, read to children and sell their owl characters.

Leelu Glass, from Ullswater Community College, said: “It’s been an amazing experience, really fun and we’re just so happy that we won.”

Sophie Broadbent, from St Bernard’s Catholic High School, said: “We’re really proud to have won as it’s taken a big team effort. All the hard work has paid off and I’d really encourage other schools to get involved in Giving Nation.”

Cumbria County Council’s enterprise education officer Julia Winder, who judged the competition alongside Rob Randell from Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership, said: “The standard of entries on both days was so high that it was very difficult for us to choose the winning teams.

“Giving Nation in Cumbria is getting bigger and better every year and it’s a great way of teaching young people essential skills for the future whether it be setting up their own businesses or preparing for life in the workplace.”

Richard John, the Citizenship Foundation’s Giving Nation programme manager, said: “This is the sixth year of our partnership with Cumbria County Council, and every year students from across the county are raising the bar for youth-led social enterprise.

“The partnership gives students the opportunity to work with successful local social entrepreneurs and have an impact beyond the school gates. It’s inspiring for us to see the enthusiasm and commitment with which these young people are tackling community issues in their local area; they really are flying the flag for the rest of our 700-strong network of schools and alternative education settings.”

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