Headteacher receives Queen's enterprise award

A BEDLINGTON headteacher is celebrating after being honoured by the Queen for being the first in the country to help pupils set up businesses.

Nick Bowen, of St Benet Biscop Roman Catholic High School in Bedlington, is one of just 11 people to receive The Queen's Award for Enterprise Promotion.

Under his leadership the school became the first in the country to develop a commercially viable social enterprise to incubate business ideas generated by students, and already several pupils have gone on to start businesses.

Mr Bowen has been headteacher since 2001 and despite having no commercial background himself, gained specialist business and enterprise college status for the school in 2005. Its Business and Learning Centre opened the following year.

He continues to develop enterprise there and inspire other schools in Northumberland and now as far afield as Leeds to do the same.

In October 2008 the Princess Royal visited to see the work of the school, which draws pupils from as far away as Alnwick.

Its company Benet Enterprises Ltd is an events management service and also nurtures ideas generated by students at school and after they leave. Any profits go back into the business.

It turned over 70,000 in its first year and after a slow time when the credit crunch struck, is now experiencing an upturn.

It has hosted business awards, organised the opening of Bedlington's revamped Market Place at Christmas and youngsters who spotted that Cramlington Greek restaurant Aphrodite closed on Sundays arranged to take it over on that night, raising 3,000 for charity.

Ex-pupil Jonathan Hall, of Blyth, now taking media studies at university, has been given freelance work as a film maker by the school company and come back to share skills with sixth formers.

The school's work is sponsored by the Co-operative Group.

Mr Bowen said: "It's a great organisation to be associated with.

"A lot of the businesses our pupils are developing in school are social enterprises – they get an appreciation that businesses have social responsibilities to the communities that they are in.

Mr Bowen is particularly proud of his work as a member of Go Wansbeck local enterprise board, where he helped obtain 1m for business education in the county, and he is active in Wansbeck Enterprise Education Network.

He said the award had come as a real surprise and he was very flattered.

As a winner of The Queen's Award, he will be visited at school by a royal representative during the year to present a crystal bowl and be invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace in July.

He is also entitled to use The Queen's Award emblem for five years.

He said: "Students are much confident and much more willing to put themselves forward and say, 'I'll do that'.

"I just keep saying yes – go for it.

"Young people are very enterprising people.

"They are very creative, they like taking risks, they like working in teams and thinking outside the box.

"When you harness that with the business community, great things happen."