Situated in the London borough of Hounslow, The Heathland School is responsible for educating over 1600 students aged 11 – 16 with another 550 in their sixth form preparing for the wider world they’ll face after graduating. Once a year Heathland School students and staff celebrate ‘Charity Week,’ a week dedicated to various fundraising activities and inter-form competitions to determine who can raise the most money. A successful initiative, in 2015 the school raised over £14,000 in just five days, a total they surpassed last year when the total came to a phenomenal £26,000 so we were incredibly grateful to have been invited to participate.

This year, in conjunction with their week of fundraising, which ran from Monday 27th November to Friday 1st December, we introduced the concept of social enterprise and how to use a viable business idea to generate profit continuously, as opposed to a one off donation. To demonstrate this, for two days during the week the Cookie Bar Bus set up shop serving a delicious selection of hot drinks and baked goods to students, staff and visitors. In addition to their role as customers, sixth form students took it in turns to work on the bus, learning how to use the coffee machines, operate the till and serve customers. Students were under the supervision of Cookie Bar superstar Alison Johnson and Tony Ryan, who played a key role in creating this partnership with the school. Tony, who was the previous head teacher at Chiswick School and is the Director of Dual Hemisphere Training, has years of experience in the education sector and hopes that these two days are the start of a longer-term plan to build a strong working relationship with the school.

The sixth form students who helped on the bus were a delight, quick learners and all went above and beyond to help the cause.

Tony Ryan

Earlier this month our Founder, Larry Sullivan, delivered a talk to sixth form Business and Economics students and our presence at the school this week was an opportunity for students to see, and get involved with, the enterprise in person. The flagship Cookie Bar in Hindhead has a strong association with Stepping Stones School, where students are able to learn about the business and participate in work experience in a safe and encouraging environment. To be able to bring this opportunity to students further afield brought the potential to share our projects, our work and the power of social enterprise with new minds, yet to embark on their chosen careers.

Open from 7.45am until 4.30pm on Wednesday and until 7pm on Thursday, when parents enter the main hall for a gala evening, the iconic red bus has so far proved to be incredibly popular. Staff and sixth formers could be served throughout the day but the remaining students were only allowed to visit during break, lunchtime or after school, taking the ‘lunchtime rush’ to a whole new level.

It has to be said that the students we served were all polite and appreciative, a real credit to the school.

Tony Ryan

The reasonably priced and delicious range of products no doubt helped students’ enthusiasm to support our social enterprise but for many, their interest didn’t stop when they received their change and chosen item. It was great to see so many students offering to volunteer their time and witnessing that they can support charities or social causes without necessarily changing their purchasing habits. If yesterday’s success is anything to go by, I think we can safely say there was a clear demand for our products with numerous requests to come back every day. Perhaps now that we’ve identified that there is a gap in the market, there might be some budding entrepreneurs at Heathland ready to tackle it on their own?