Primary school pupils entrusted with £80,000 budget to buy farm's new forklift
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
Making the right investment decision on an £80,000 farm machine usually requires experience and market savvy. But one East Anglian farm manager has delegated this weighty responsibility to neighbouring school-children - in a bid to teach them life lessons about business and branding.
It is the latest initiative in a partnership between the Euston Estate and Barnham Primary School, both near Thetford, which has seen pupils take regular visits to the farm to learn about food production and the associated lessons of biology, maths and technology.
But for this latest lesson, farm manager Matthew Hawthorne presented the Year Six students, aged 10 and 11, with three different options he was considering for a new loader, from manufacturers Claas, JCB and Manitou.
Although he was happy with any of these models, he entrusted the children with the final decision after helping them deliberate over the cost, styling, performance, service and origin of the machinery.
Their selected model, the JCB, was delivered to the school so the pupils could see the result of their business advice.
Mr Hawthorne said: “Before this, these children didn’t know anything about forklifts, so there were no preconceived ideas and this was a completely honest decision.
“We talked about how the quotes were built, the service and back-up from each dealer and why that might be important. When they saw pictures of each piece of equipment in action what was really interesting was their thoughts on the appearance – they associated the colour and the styling as a mark of quality. It proves that people producing sales brochures have a lot to learn about the impact of good photographs.
“For the children the most important factor was the styling and the way it looked, but a very close second was the fact that it was made in England.”
Mr Hawthorne said the children’s decision had also sparked a new business relationship, as this is the first piece of equipment his farm has bought from Ely-based dealer Pecks.
Headteacher Amy Arnold said: “From an educational point of view they are getting a much wider awareness of life and the types of things to take into consideration when making a purchase, like knowing where something comes from and that you can support British manufacturing.
“We did a lot of work in the summer about British produce and we surveyed the public about it, which made us realise we have got to be a bit more proactive in ensuring the children are aware of not only where there food comes from, but also where the wider resources and equipment come from.
“They had to consider the efficiency and the price of the vehicles and the different technical components of the loaders, and the level of customer service also featured very highly.
“They got to handle large numbers in a purposeful context, and we had great discussions about VAT and where it goes and who has to pay it. These are skills for later life.”