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Independent Schools’ Inspectorate, 2010 (Girls’ Division)

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Students Stretch Skills on BEST Day

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Business Enterprise and Skills Training (BEST) Day took place at the end of the first week of term, giving the Year 12 girls their first Sixth Form opportunity to enhance their soft skills. The annual event involves a series of workshops, each asking the girls to complete business tasks as part of a small group.

A keynote address from Clare Inkster provided a wonderful opening to the day. Clare is now a Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital. She is also an Associate Postgraduate Dean responsible for the postgraduate training for Psychiatry in the north west and an honorary lecturer and academic advisor at the University of Manchester Medical School. She is involved with ophthalmology training at a national level, as well as maintaining an active role in international development by helping to foster links between eye units in Nigeria and Bolton. Her other interests include patient experience and Quality Standards in Medicine.

Clare’s talk focused on the theme of resilience, or “coping with knockbacks”, and she explained how she has dealt with the various problems she has come up against in her career. She talked about how positive qualities – such as purpose, optimism and self-acceptance – can all have dark sides, but also about how the reverse is true: by using cognitive reframing to look in a different way at more negative aspects of yourself or problems you encounter, these can be turned into valuable lessons or opportunities to change things and move forward.

She also gave the girls some great tips for developing their own resilience. Particularly important was to increase their own self-knowledge, but she also suggested finding their values and passions, cultivating the right mindset, and creating a long-term goal. She said that having the goal of becoming a doctor helped her to cope with some of her greatest challenges, as it kept her going through adversity.

The session ended with some interesting and astute questions from the girls before they moved on to the rest of the BEST Day activities.

Robyn Lowe was one of the day’s workshop leaders. After leaving the Girls’ Division in 2010, Robyn went on to achieve a 2:1 in English at the University of Cambridge before moving into recruitment in London. She gave the girls an insight into creating their own personal brand. She gave some great advice on how they should brand themselves, particularly referencing the use of social media.

She talked about the various documents, such as CVs, personal statements and cover letters, which students will start to create as they move through the Sixth Form and towards the world of work. Along with how the girls conduct themselves in person, these form two branches of their ‘personal brand’, with their social media presence making up the final third. Robyn explained that potential employers and recruiters often find applicants’ digital footprints and take into account their reputation on social media in order to make hiring decisions. Although hard documents such as CVs and cover letters will be the most important, it is also vital to maintain a tidy and professional digital footprint and build the correct profile on Facebook and other social media websites.

The second of the day’s delegates was Andrew Spencer, a Finance Manager at KPMG, who ran a Dragons’ Den style restaurant challenge. The girls were given the details of two London restaurants currently on the market, each with both positive and negative aspects, and had to choose which one they wanted to pitch as their business proposition. Each group came up with ideas for how they would improve the restaurant, decided what percentage of the business they were willing to give up to the ‘dragons’, and what funds they would need in exchange in order to put their plan into action.

Stephanie Foster, a Partner in Rivington Associates and a former Bolton School parent, delivered a workshop about ‘Working Together for a Successful Partnership’. The girls were tasked with creating a new design for a sleeping bag, including the product name, logo, pricing, and a number of product features that would entice the buyer to choose their product. Each group then had to present their ideas, ensuring that every member of the team had something to say.

The final task also asked the girls to think creatively. Nadia Rae of Nadia Rae Etiquette Training has had plenty of experience with entrepreneurship: after completing her degree in Politics with International Relations and exploring a career in property, she created her own afternoon tea business, taking home-made afternoon tea experiences out to individuals and businesses, and has since moved into providing etiquette training for both businesses and individuals. She gave an interesting insight into marketing and the various strategies used by companies, from clever pricing to using buyers’ emotions. After giving the girls some direction in this way, she asked each group to create an afternoon tea package for 16-18 year olds, to be delivered to their venue or home. As well as the basics of cutlery and crockery, tea and cakes, and discreet servers, the girls could choose to include anything else they thought their target audience might want, or they could decide to keeps things simple.

Year 12 really enjoyed taking part in the different challenges throughout the day. This was a wonderful opportunity for them to work with professionals from a wide variety of fields and benefit from their expertise and experience. The BEST Day helped them to develop their business skills as well as honing their ability to work as part of a team, come up with creative business ideas, and present concepts clearly.

The BEST Day is just one of the events at Bolton School which allows pupils to start to consider their future. On the 13th of October, the School will host a Careers and Higher Education Convention for young people from the local area who are in Year 9 and above. The Convention will be an opportunity for young people to meet delegates from modern apprenticeships, various careers including medicine and dentistry, and Higher Education providers. In addition to the stalls, there will be seminars covering how to get into medical and dental school or Oxbridge, student finance, apprenticeships and many more topics. This is a great opportunity for young people who are starting to think about their future and would like to get an idea of the different options open to them.

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Keynote speaker Clare Inkster with two Year 12 girls

Keynote speaker Clare Inkster with two Year 12 girls

Old Girl Robyn Lowe talks about personal branding

Old Girl Robyn Lowe talks about personal branding

A group presents their sleeping bag design

A group presents their sleeping bag design