Page last updated at 18:06 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Kids make their mark with a tenner

'Silent' disco
The 'silent' disco - where you bring the music

How do you persuade children that working for yourself can be fun and rewarding, and not necessarily a risky business?

Professional entrepreneurs believe loaning them 10 and letting their imagination do the rest might work.

This week pupils at the City of London Academy in Islington danced at a "silent" disco where they called the tune on their iPods.

The silence added to the event's "scary" theme - complete with Michael Jackson Thriller dance.

Year 11 pupil Maria came up with the idea - and applied for a 10 loan to start her off. And several friends did the same.

The cash is loaned by professional business people who want to encourage pupils to think seriously about going into business in future.

Maria says seeing through such an event will give her the confidence to try new things.

"I actually suggested this as a bit of a joke - and then we realised that it could work," she said.

"But everybody else made it happen to. If I ever ran my own business I know I couldn't do it on my own."

"Make Your Mark For A Tenner" is backed by numerous entrepreneurs and the best ideas will be judged by Michelle Dewberry - winner of TV's The Apprentice - and Martin Webb, presenter of Channel 4's Risking It.

Michael and Xochi Birch, founders of social networking site Bebo, and entrepreneur Peter Jones have loaned the cash to thousands of pupils.

Maria's friend Yasmin explains how they got local businesses involved - allowing them to sell their products at the disco in return for a proportion of any profits.

The girls are hoping to turn their initial small sum into 400.

Try something new

The scheme's founder, Oli Barrett, dropped out of university to set up his own alternative careers fair business.

Schools are too much about sitting still. They should be about making things happen
Entrepreneur Oli Barrett
He's now involved in several ventures, as well as speaking in schools.

After giving numerous talks in schools about entrepreneurship, he decided to ask them to do something for themselves, and came up with the idea of loaning them 10 each.

"The most important thing is that they have a good experience. It's not just about the business side," he says.

Yasmin and Maria agree it has been a chance to try something new, outside of classroom teaching.

The girls will share the profits after donating 10% to Comic Relief.

Year 11 pupils Maria and Yasmin
Maria and Yasmin are the brainchilds
But Barrett admits that about 10% of participants seem to "lose" the tenner - or at least do not return it.

The panel sees a huge range of weird and wonderful entrepreneurial ideas every year.

In the Manchester Academy this year, pupils have developed an idea to sell origami to local businesses, which they first ran last year.

And Beccles School in Suffolk has set up a business restoring old photos with digital technology, an idea aimed mainly helping the elderly see their memories more clearly.

'Multiple incomes'

Perhaps not surprisingly, Oli Barrett thinks children are not encouraged to make enough calculated risks.

"Schools are too much about sitting still. They should be about making things happen, not just about drinking in information.

"I see children who in many ways aren't leaving school with what they need in life, let alone in business."

But many schools are now taking entrepreneurship seriously. It is not a statutory requirement, but many schools are teaching it as part of Personal, Health and Social Education.

And Nicola Jones, Enterprise and Innovator Co-ordinator for the Islington School, is a full-time teacher employed to introduce enterprise learning across the whole curriculum.

She says schools are waking up to its importance in equipping children with life skills.

She was concerned about the organisation involved in producing an event, but relieved when the girls pulled it off.

"They did it all - and have worked really well together.

"I've been really impressed with how organised they've been," she said.

Barrett says many children express a desire to set up their own business when they leave school, but that many still saw a full-time job as the secure option and so chose not to take the risk.

Others are put off by the perception that you need a lot of money, not imagining that something large can grow from small beginnings.

"But if you work for yourself, you may have multiple incomes," Barrett said.

"When I was at university, being a banker was a desirable option.

"Obviously that's going to change."

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