The Student Consultancy – for Schools

Each year, more than 450 undergraduate and graduate students take part, and the evidence is that they gain real employability skills, particularly in the areas of team work and business awareness, while the local community gets to work hands-on with the students who study in this city.

We have piloted an adapted programme for sixth-formers over the last three years, – working with schools including Berkhamsted School and Oxford High School. We are delighted that we can now expand the programme. The evidence from the pilot is that all the benefits reported by Oxford students are mirrored in the sixth-formers: increased confidence, business awareness, and planning skills all improved.

The Student Consultancy for Schools (TSCS) is not a static programme: we are excited about growing the programme to all types of schools, across the country, and importantly to learning from you as you work with your pupils and local organisations. TSC has developed and become more polished over the years since its launch almost ten years ago, and we expect to do the same with your help and enthusiasm over the next few years.

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In student feedback, the main reasons candidates give for applying to TSCS are:

  • A wish to use their intellect to give back to the community in their year 13 volunteer placement
  • A wish to build experience towards a career in business, entrepreneurialism or consulting
  • An opportunity for arts and humanities students to broaden their CV to include business skills
  • To use skills gained elsewhere (for example on the Young Enterprise programme), toward the next challenge

Skills developed by the programme

A key objective of the project is to encourage students to see volunteering and engagement with the local community as the norm, whilst gaining valuable business experience and developing key employability skills. Student outcomes include:

  • Independent researching skills
  • Strategy skills
  • Learning to communicate professionally
  • Presentation skills
  • Team working skills
  • Real life business experience
  • Confidence!
  • Learning to deliver – no matter what!

Source projects

Pupils work in teams of 5 or 6 on a client’s real business issue, over the space of one or two terms, e.g. from January to May.

The school’s project leader (usually a teacher) will source as many projects as there are teams. We would suggest starting modestly with two or three projects. Sources of projects can be organisations where parents work; where Governors work; that the school has worked with before; or local charities, councils or businesses.

A template for defining the Client Brief is provided, together with examples of other TSCS project briefs to give you an idea of what works well.

Select pupils

Promote the programme to pupils, usually Year 13, in the autumn term – perhaps by running an information session one lunchtime or after school. Ask for pupils to submit an application briefly outlining why they want to take part.

Invite the shortlisted pupils (maybe all of them) to an Assessment Session. Examples are available. Pupils work in teams on a very short challenge, for maybe 20 minutes, and then present back to the assessors, role playing a client. Pupils are not expected to answer the question posed, but to describe, in one to two minutes each, how their team would address the challenge.

Select pupils who will be good team players, open to learning, enthusiastic, ready to contribute time and energy, and be good ambassadors for the school.

Form the successful pupils into teams – a gender and subject (e.g. arts, sciences) mix can be helpful so the teams have a rich and wide set of experiences and skills.

Train pupils

Training is based around short, weekly lessons. So, if say Wednesday 2pm-4pm is set aside for TSCS, the session may start with a 30 minute lesson based on the slides provided by the programme. The rest of the session is for teams to use the materials in the lesson (e.g., developing an interview guide, analysing data, writing a proposal letter) for their own project.

Not all weekly sessions have a slide-based lesson – these are for consolidating work, interview practice, meeting with mentor, assessing progress to date, reviewing results with teachers and leaders.

Finish and present to the client

By the end of the programme, the pupil team will have assembled a written report and a presentation that you may wish to rehearse with them, that they then go on to present to their client. Typically, the presentation will be 10-15 minutes long. All team members attend (though they may not all present), and there will be 15+ minutes for discussion afterwards between all team members and the client.

Reflection and feedback

It is helpful to ask the pupils for feedback on the programme: what they have learned, how they think their skills have improved, what they will tell others etc. We can provide a template survey that others have used.

A reflection session is also helpful, especially focused on how pupils will talk about their experience at interview, with future clients, on application forms or (if Year 12s are taking part) how they will present the experience in any personal statement.

It can be helpful for each team to have an external mentor, someone who can meet the team occasionally to help signpost and direct them, maybe challenge them, on the project. Typically, this is not a teacher but may be an interested Governor or parent.

It is not essential that the mentor has consulting experience, but a broad experience of business and the ‘real world’ is important. If the mentor has been a consultant, it will be important to discuss the consulting approach that underpins  TSCS, as this may be different from the mentor’s approach. In this case, the potential mentor should probably attend the school training sessions, or come to the Oxford training day.

If you are interested in piloting the TSCS programme in your school, please get in touch with us, via Brianna Thompson, ( or 01865 274736).

We run an annual training day that covers the philosophy behind TSCS; runs through the detailed training slides; showcases one or two actual school projects; brings together teachers who are running or planning to run the programme, and provides details of how to use the programme. If you would like to attend, or just want to find out more, please get in touch!

Currently, there is no cost from Oxford to use the programme. On the staffing side, you should assume that one person from the school will take the lead, perhaps engage other staff, and probably engage mentors. Particularly in the early years, there may be a few hours a week, during term time to manage the teams and deliver the classroom sessions. Exact experiences are discussed in more detail at the training day where you can meet experienced teachers who have run the programme.

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