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Pupils Swap School For Stadium In Port Of Tyne Business Challenge

Pupils representing the Foundation of Light and Newcastle United Foundation swapped the classroom for the Stadium of Light recently as part of a ground-breaking football-themed business challenge.

The ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ project, supported by the Port of Tyne, tasked more than 100 students from four Tyne and Wear secondary schools to develop an advertising campaign aimed at promoting unity in football as a way of strengthening the North East business economy.

Working with staff from Foundation of Light and Newcastle United Foundation since October, the youngsters aged 12-13 years old have researched and developed their marketing campaigns while improving their social and personal skills and gaining qualifications in Business and Enterprise.

The pupils, working in teams, then pitched their concepts and designs to a panel of industry experts at the home of Sunderland AFC in a Dragon’s Den style event.

The winning group, from St Wilfrid’s RC College from South Shields impressed the panel of judges with their in-depth research, innovative ideas and polished presentation.

Port of Tyne’s Director of Corporate Affairs Susan Wear, said: “We were amazed at how well the teams grasped a quite complex brief and the depth and quality of their research and creative presentations.  They all presented with great confidence even though they must have been nervous, and they’ve produced some very good concepts any company would be proud to take forward.

“They really understood the idea behind the Breaking Down Barriers initiative that football rivalry doesn’t have to lead to prejudice; it can be friendly.

“St Wilfrid’s just had the edge because they presented in a way that was very powerful as they used an emotional response and linked the importance of the image of football to the image of the area and how important that is to the future economy of the North East.

 “They showed pictures of fan rivalry when it’s a good thing, and when it’s a bad thing, but St Wilfrid’s understood the pictures that you want to see of the North East – the ones that will bring business to the region – are of the fans in friendly rivalry, not hostility.”

Nicole Atkin, Head of Marketing at Newcastle United, who was also on the judging panel, added: “I was so impressed by the maturity of the ideas; the thought that had gone into them, the arguments the pupils were putting across and the research they’d done to justify their campaigns.

“All the groups had shown such emotional intelligence in what they were presenting, and to see them get on stage at that age, they all did an amazing job.

“The show of unity is so important in sport, and the pupils all understood that.”

Lynn Fairclough, teacher at St Wilfrid’s RC College who will now have their ideas brought to life in a real campaign across Tyne and Wear, said: “Our group was selected because we felt they had low self-esteem and weren’t the best performing students in school. Often it’s this type of pupils who don’t get the opportunities to do this kind of project in school, so they were selected very carefully.

“The group have really enjoyed working with Foundation of Light and when I’ve spoken to them about what they have thought about the course, they said it’s improved their confidence and given them a greater insight into business.

“They have some fantastic ideas and it will be huge for them to see their campaign become a reality. They are all immensely grateful they have been given the chance to take part in the project and we’re very proud of them.”

The ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ project, part of the Football and Business in Partnership programme uses Sunderland AFC, Newcastle United and Port of Tyne as business models, highlighting the range of over 100 different occupations within the Port, whilst also introducing other business examples in order to highlight North East Local Enterprise Partnership skills gaps and growth industry areas such as Automotive, Sub Sea and Software.

Chris Hooker, Education Curriculum Lead at Foundation of Light, added: “It’s been a fantastic day. I think all the kids should be proud of their achievements and the journey the have been on.

“The quality and hard work has been amazing for children of this age. The project is all about giving pupils tangible skills such as teamwork, creativity and confidence they can take into the world of work, making sure our region is driving forward.

“Throughout the North East the Premier League Enterprise programme is having an impact on students across the board and having such a big employer as the Port of Tyne here today and supporting the project is a huge opportunity for the pupils.

“It will be so exciting seeing St Wilfrid’s concept come to life and with the help of the Port of Tyne and Foundation of Light I’m sure it will be really impactful which will hopefully benefit the fans of Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United in the future.”

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