St Mary’s & Rathmore students win 2023 NI Schools’ Business Challenge

Katie O’Reilly of Rathmore Grammar (left) and Emma McNally of St Mary’s Grammar (right) are presented with the 2023 NI Schools’ Business Challenge winner’s trophy as joint champions by event organisers (L-R) Laura Jackson, BDO NI Partner and Honorary Professor at Queen’s Management School, Professor Ciaran Connolly of Queen’s Management School, Jill Armer, Education Manager for Business Studies at CCEA and Billy Moore, Financial Director at Henderson Group.

100 pupils from schools across Northern Ireland took part in the annual NI Schools’ Business Challenge which saw both St Mary’s Grammar School and Rathmore Grammar School crowned joint winners.

A partnership between Queen’s Management School, BDO Northern Ireland, Henderson Group and supported by CCEA, the competition tests the business acumen of A-Level Business Studies pupils who are tasked to work in teams to develop a business strategy in real time.

This year’s, competition which also supports the CCEA’s business related A-level qualifications, took place at Queen’s Management School, Riddel Hall with the winning teams being selected after the panel of judges couldn’t separate the two entries from both St Mary’s and Rathmore.

Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland and Honorary Professor at Queen’s Management School said,

“Practical challenges contribute to students learning and helps prepare them for their future, the earlier students can have access to this type of experience the more equipped they will be. This challenge gives pupils the opportunity to develop important skills that will stand them in good stead in the world of business and beyond.

“The talent that we are seeing coming through in these challenges is a testament to our young people and those who are guiding them in their education.”

On the day, a business case study was provided to students by Henderson Group with pupils tasked with developing and pitching a business strategy to the judging panel.

Billy Moore, Financial Director at Henderson Group discusses the importance of this challenge,

“What businesses in Northern Ireland need right now is fresh thinking, robust strategies, and efficient operations as we battle against the challenges of various external factors. This year’s Schools’ Challenge winners brought each of those attributes in spades and had put in an impressive degree of research to build their consultation around risk management.

“This hands-on experience will be invaluable to the students who will be entering the workplace in a matter of years, while also giving them a depth of knowledge on real-life business scenarios that will stay with them far beyond their school years. All at Henderson Group send our congratulations to this year’s winners.”

The opportunity for students to pit themselves against other schools whilst learning from them and sharing ideas has been a vital element of the popularity of this competition.

Professor Ciaran Connolly from Queen’s Management School said,

“I would like to thank the teachers for encouraging and supporting their pupils to participate in this event. The quality of the presentations was extremely high and a testament to the talent and commitment of each of the teams. I hope that it has been a rewarding experience and that many decide to come to Queen’s, especially to study Accounting, after completing their A-levels.”

A key element of the NI Schools’ Business Challenge is that it supports CCEA’s A-Level Business Studies and Education Manager for Business Studies at CCEA, Jill Armer added,

“Once again, the participants, their teachers and schools should be very proud of the knowledge and skills displayed during the presentations.  The high level of both preparation and thought that has gone into the case study and to providing the business with potential innovative and realistic solutions was very evident.  In my view they are all winners.”

The winning schools came away with VIP tickets for a Belfast Giants game and a £500 prize pot for their school.