Bolton School Sixth Form Girls

BEST Day Promotes Soft Skills

The annual Year 12 Business Enterprise and Skills Training (BEST) Day was once again a great opportunity for girls to develop their soft skills with a variety of team challenges and workshops set by guests from the world of business.

The day was opened by keynote speaker Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick of the Cheshire Constabulary. Janette is a Bolton School Old Girl (1979-86) and also mother of two Girls’ Division pupils.

After studying at Nottingham University, Janette joined Greater Manchester Police in 1989 on their fast-track graduation scheme. She has worked in areas across Greater Manchester, including leading on roads policing, neighbourhood policing and communications. She won the title of ‘Ultra-Woman of the Year 2008’ while working as Chief Superintendent of the Trafford Division. She transferred to Cheshire Constabulary in 2010 as Assistant Chief Constable, and in July 2014 took up the post of Deputy Chief Constable.

She spoke to the girls about her life and career, going into detail about some of the most important lessons she has learned over time. She condensed these into a nine-point list of pieces of advice, which she discussed in reference to events in her life.

Janette told the girls that failure is good and can be used as a positive learning experience; and that teamwork, leadership skills, resilience and flexibility are all important on the path to success. She further advised the girls to push themselves; do something they enjoy; not to accept the status quo; and not to think ‘if only’. She added a warning to the last: that they should not create a Glass Ceiling for themselves through their own negative thinking!

She also gave the girls advice on filling their CVs and developing their soft skills, explaining that she looks for an ‘extra factor’ when selecting candidates. The academic bedrock is needed to get past the interview stage, but life skills and self-reliance are equally important.

The rest of the BEST Day was spent developing the girls’ soft skills and allowing them to learn more about time- and self-management in a business setting.

Stephanie Foster, a Partner in Rivington Associates and a former Bolton School parent, delivered a session titled ‘Working Together for a Successful Partnership’. She was joined by Old Girl Robyn Lowe, who graduated from Queens’ College Cambridge after leaving the Girls' Division in 2010 and is now a research associate at the Cornell Partnership. The Year 12 girls had to design a new and innovative sleeping bag and create a presentation to the buyer, a company which designs and manufactures high-standard clothing and equipment for outdoor pursuits. This had to involve all members of the team, and include the product name, logo, and highlighted product features which would be attractive to customers.

Miss Jones and Mrs Drinkwater, from the Girls’ Division Business and Economics department, gave the Year 12s an insight into structuring a business plan and forecasting cash flow. They talked about the necessary elements of a business plan, and how the girls would go about putting one together. They also discussed cash flow within a business and how to draw up a forecast. The girls then had the task of completing a three-month cash flow forecast of their own, based on an example.

Bethany Ledger and Sarah Frith of KPMG offered the girls a ‘Dragon’s Den Restaurant Challenge’. They were given the details of two London restaurants which are currently on the market, each with its own list of pros and cons, and asked to pick one of them to pitch in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition. Given that there were no wrong answers on this task, they had to work out which was the better option for them, as well as a plan for how to improve the restaurant they had selected, how much of the business they were willing to give up to the ‘dragons’, and what funds they would need to implement changes to make the business successful.

The final session was with Nadia Rae, who, after completing a degree in Politics with International Relations and exploring a career in property, has crafted her own afternoon tea business, taking home-made afternoon tea experiences out to individuals and businesses. She challenged the girls to create and market a unique afternoon experience tailored to a 16-18 year old demographic. She also gave the girls a number of pointers on marketing a business.

She was assisted throughout the day by Dr Angela Smith, a practising Forensic Psychologist who co-founded the training company Excellence in Resilience, Ltd. Dr Smith also spoke to the girls during the final session of the day.

Dr Smith talked about resilience. She advised the girls that if they fail, it is what they do afterwards that is important, rather than the failure itself. As an example, she explained that if a vase shatters and is glued back together, it will be more fragile and likely to break again. However, creating something different and more beautiful from the parts is analogous to growth from failure.

The day was a great opportunity for the girls to learn from professionals with expertise in a variety of different fields. They were interested and engaged with each one of the activities, and enjoyed the whole of the BEST Day experience.

Some of the Sixth Form girls with Old Girl Janette McCormick

Some of the Sixth Form girls with Old Girl Janette McCormick

Old Girl Robyn Lowe gives the girls some advice in her workshop

Old Girl Robyn Lowe gives the girls some advice in her workshop

Nadia Rae talks to the girls about marketing their afternoon tea ideas

Nadia Rae talks to the girls about marketing their afternoon tea ideas