Shop ‘til you drop!

Written by: HTU | Published:

Helen Frostick reports on a project marrying the concepts of shopping and business to inspire year 6 pupils to consider career options, build team-work skills and solve mathematical problems

During a visit by my nephew from his international school in Italy, I was impressed by how animated he was while describing his “favourite unit of work ever”. It was entitled “Shop ‘til you drop!”. 

My brother was equally animated to tell me that his domestic-shy son had taken to baking brownies to sell at the end of the school day – all in the name of education. I listened with interest and decided on the spot that pupils at my primary school would also reap such benefits and implemented it at my school straight away.

The project begins with the year 6 class teacher setting the challenge to their pupils of coming up with fundraising ideas for the school. The inspiration continues with the fact that the pupils themselves can choose what to spend the money that they raise on – their legacy to the school as they leave us behind to transfer on to their secondary schools.

The children sort themselves into small groups of four and decide who will be their treasurer, marketing executive, sales consultant and project manager. Their first task is to produce a PowerPoint to persuade four Dragons’ Den members to part with £20 per group to set them on their way. This is an excellent opportunity to use “persuasive texts” in context, as a prerequisite to success in the den.

The pupils meet at each other’s houses, at playtime and in designated class time to begin to formulate their business plans. Part of their presentation to the dragons has to include a profit and loss forecast, to persuade the dragons to part with their cash.

The dragons consist of the class teacher, a local business role model, a governor and the headteacher. A challenging audience! The pupils present in many ways: PowerPoints, speeches and some even coming up with prototypes of what they will go on to sell.

The role of the dragons is to prompt with questions to tease out the children’s best fundraising ideas and to challenge them as to how their £20 will be used to facilitate their ideas. 

The children have to use their problem-solving skills, drawing on their mathematical knowledge and understanding, in order to persuade the dragons of the profits they foresee. 

The children manipulate numbers through considering how much they will spend to get started, how many of each product unit they project that they will sell, and also what they predict their final total will reach.

The children are delighted to be handed their £20 start-up fund and feedback that this trust in them spurs them on to do their best for the school. They love the opportunity to have responsibility and to be able to work on their own. This is a good chance for the children to build up their independence and team-work skills, while at the same time working towards a common goal.

Opportunities are given to the children to sell their products, such as at the end of the school day, at the Christmas fair, and at their own Friday, after-school, Christmas Market. The children come up with inventive names for their groups and their ideas are outstanding. For example “Bargain Bucket” raised £500 from their £20 start by hosting a movie night in the school hall (selling the tickets, popcorn, drinks and even VIP seating in the teachers’ chairs!).

“Snap, Crackle and Pop” made rings, bracelets, “scoobies” and bags. They also organised a photo booth at the Christmas Fair with Christmas props for festive cheer. For the younger pupils they organised a “guess the name of the teddy bear”.

“Deals on Wheels” made cakes and cookies to sell at the Friday night Christmas Market to refresh the customers, with the help of parents. They also sourced wrist bands and stickers from eBay.

“Mix and Match” made marshmallow pops and had a “guess how many sweets in the jar?” challenge for the Christmas Market, where a children’s room was set up for year 6 to specifically sell their wares.

A further asset of this project is the involvement of the whole school as evidenced through Bargain Bucket’s ideas. Year 6 present their ideas to the school in an assembly launch and the staff and children wait with excitement to hear the ideas the children have come up with.

Parents catch me in the playground to tell me how inspired the children are to come home and share their entrepreneurial fundraising ideas. The children tell me that they enjoy meeting at one another’s houses to share ideas. They enjoy making products to sell and choosing what to spend the money raised on. They said that they had got better at maths, socialising, interacting and persuading people to part with their cash!

A personal favourite of the fundraising ideas over the past four years has to include the “shoe shine group”. This particular group spent their £20 on shoe polish, cloths, brushes and a bucket. This was a great link to their Victorians topic as the group set up their shoe shine station at the beginning and end of the day for the parents to use. The shiny shoes station was used by many of the teachers too. It proved to be a roaring success.

Over the years the children have used their funds to buy the school a PE shed, a storytellers’ chair and markings for “four square” in the playground. This year the class has chosen to buy their “buddies” in reception wooden play equipment, including a pirate ship, for their outside space (pictured).

The project is always a highlight of the year 6 curriculum and is an excellent way of raising school funds. This year’s year 6 raised £1,629.53 in total from a start-up fund of £140. The challenge for next year’s cohort begins...

• Helen Frostick is the headteacher of St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School in south London.

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