Tuesday 21st September 2010 by C. Freeman
Business entrepreneur and finalist in television's The Apprentice, Claire Young, was guest of honour at this year's Brooke Weston Prize Giving. Ms Young spoke about her background, career and aspirations, before handing out prizes to hundreds of students.
The evening started with a video review of the year and musicians, George Robinson, Joanna Newton and Rebecca Savage provided the musical interludes with piano, flute and a singing solo respectively. Ms Young gave a 15-minute address and Executive Principal, Mr Peter Simpson, spoke about the progress of both Brooke Weston and the other two partnership schools.
Prizes were awarded to students who had done well in individual subject areas and there was an overall 'Student of the Year Award' for each year group. Prizes were also given for those who had exceptional attainment in examinations with 19 students gaining 13 or more A* or A grades at GCSE and 18 A Level students attaining a minimum of 440 UCAS points, equivalent to two A and two B grades at A Level.
Mr Simpson reflects on each Academy's progress.
Students who had achieved Gold Awards in the BA Crest and Duke of Edinburgh's Award schemes received prizes and special awards were given to six students who had excelled in business, achievement, sports and entrepreneurship.
During her speech Ms Young spoke of her early life and role models of Oprah Winfrey, her mother and the headmistress of her former school, Wakefield High School for Girls. Their determination, charisma and single-mindedness inspired Ms Young to grab all the opportunities she could. She completed an equine studies degree at Bristol University before embarking on a business career that included working at three multi-national companies before she applied for The Apprentice beating 20,000 other people for a chance to prove herself with Lord Alan Sugar:
'I left university and for the next eight years I just worked incredibly hard. I grabbed opportunities where I could. I spent three years in marketing working for L'Oreal. 5,000 people went for 10 graduate jobs. It was a cut-throat application process. I was there for six weeks and I was taken off the scheme and put into an operational job. I didn't know about business, I had to learn quickly. It was sink or swim. I had nobody to hold my hand, nobody to tell me what to do and I absolutely loved it.
Ms Young and Miss Stringer on stage.
'I worked at L'Oreal for three years then I went to work for Colgate to learn about finance and spent another three years learning about profit and loss, about accounts, how to make money and spent a huge amount of my time travelling and they trained me to an accountant standard. I was then approached to work at Superdrug. The British public spend £480m a year on Superdrug hair products and that was my responsibility. I was 28 and worked really, really hard and learned huge amounts.
'I worked for three large companies, I was probably the youngest one in the boardroom, probably the only woman and really learning and absorbing, I learned everything I could. So why walk away from it all for the Apprentice? I'm a great believer that you put your money where your mouth is. If you want to do something, don't talk about it, do it.'
Claire, who was given the nickname of 'The Rottweiler' by Lord Sugar, reached the final of the 2008 series. She was subsequently inundated with job offers, but set up her own wedding venue company that she recently sold, and now she has several business projects working with young people including 'Girls Out Loud' aimed at raising the aspirations of young women.
Ms Young and Miss Stringer after the event.
She told the students at Brooke Weston: 'I worked with David Cameron a couple of months ago talking about young people, enterprise, entrepreneurship and business. I'm in schools nearly every day of the week working with young people; you are raw talent and it is very, very satisfying, as your Principal says, to see the development into the great people you are becoming.
'You have got to be passionate about what you do. If you find what you are passionate about and find a job and career to match it, put the two together and you will really flow. There will be absolutely no stopping you, the sky is the limit. Most of all don't quit, you've got to think of yourselves like rubber bands, be flexible, resistant and just not give up.'