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Kingussie High School Case Study

When the girls of Kingussie High School first embarked on their foray into the Growing Future Assets competition, it’s fair to say there was muted enthusiasm for the project. Diffidence and hesitance were evident.

However, their subsequent spectacular triumph in both senior and junior categories of the 2023 contest is a masterclass in the powers of encouragement, perseverance and self-belief – and a huge accolade for a small school in the Highlands.

The pupils knew absolutely nothing of the contest, were initially a bit reluctant to take part and didn’t feel it had a great deal of relevance to them.  There was very little opportunity to study investment in school and they were up against some old stereotypes regarding what was expected of women career-wise in a rural Highland area.

But the driving force was Lenka Nagle, Faculty Head of the Mathematics & Numeracy and Computing Department, who not only turned the girls into front-runners but ultimately steered them to success, resulting in a double first when the school took both top honours in the nationwide competition – the juniors for a pitch on renewable energy firm SolarEdge and the seniors on recycling company TOMRA.

Even Lenka was astonished by their achievement: “I really couldn’t believe it because there was so much reluctance with the girls and I really underplayed how far we would get. I just encouraged the girls to give it their best shot and see where we could go. To then have both teams winning, I was just phenomenally proud of them.”

She doesn’t mind admitting that, at the start, it was a bit of an uphill struggle. “I think initially, they were really reluctant to take part as they didn’t see the relevance to them. The girls couldn’t relate to what they were being asked to do and I think it was a really steep learning curve. The types of girls who signed up for it already had hefty workloads, so they’re the sorts of students that take on lots of different things. Initially, I think they found the process really hard but then, as they started to grasp a bit more of what they were doing and understand how the world works, it then, in turn, fuelled their own interest.

“As the competition went on, having the interaction with Angus Tulloch, their Competition Coach was amazing. He was fantastic at showing them how the whole thing works and the structure of it, but also taking them into the fundamental detail and not just the black-and-white picture. It got them really hungry for wanting to know more about the world of investment. What’s really interesting is some of the girls who had no interest but were just sort of dragged along with the process because their friends were doing it, are now applying to colleges and universities to go into investment or business or something related to that, which I think is incredible.”

The teams were also mentored by one of the dads, Carl Nagle, a graduate of the Mars training scheme who now works in marketing and global strategy. Combined with Angus’s expertise, the pair gave the students lots of useful tips and ensured their understanding and depth of knowledge were strong.

“The girls had great spport and advice and I think that helped massively,” said Lenka, “but they also really listened to that advice and took on board everything that they were told, so credit to them too.”

Their dedication to the contest was impressive– many gave up a day of their part-time jobs to attend a one-day workshop. One girl even cycled seven miles to reach the venue.

And their win attracted the attention of Drew Hendry, SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, who gave them some lovely feedback, plus congratulations from Donna Manson, CEO of Highland Education.

Now Lenka is looking to enter the school in the competition again and hoping for both more involvement from volunteers and parents in the community and a greater emphasis on the subject of investment in the school curriculum.

But she acknowledges schools can face pressure to include the programme as an option for youngsters as budgets and staffing can be constrained.

However, she is in no doubt about the value the contest adds to the girls’ education:  “The fact that they have to pitch to a panel and produce a report and a presentation, offers the girls really transferable skills. The competition opens their eyes to the corporate world and gives them access to the terminology and language used, which fills that gap in the curriculum.

“Future Asset does a really good job of pointing out how underrepresented women are in the finance industry. I truly believe that women have so much to offer and a unique perspective and therefore we should be correctly represented.”

Triumphing in the competition has also given the youngsters a crucial head start in business, says Lenka: “They now have a massive advantage when they go out into the real world and graduate having had this experience. They’ve got a competitive edge because they’ve had this phenomenal opportunity and experience.”

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