Students at Madras College in St Andrews, Scotland are involved in a co-operative enterprise that maintains and sells bicycles. Students source bikes destined for salvage for renovation and sale.

The Madras Bicycle Business co-operative has been running for three years out of a workshop based in the school and is a member of the Co-operative College’s Young Co-operatives scheme. The business started with a £100 loan to buy a work stand and a few tools. It has built up a good reputation since inception with repeat custom and a steadily increasing customer base. Profits are reinvested in the business to increase the co-operative’s range of spare parts and workshop tools, and money is donated to charity.

Gavin Waterston from Madras College’s Additional Support Department said: “It is extremely notable that this type of skills-based, practical business has a tremendous cache with students and gives them a great deal of easily measurable success.

“I have been struck by how students who are fairly globally disaffected in school are immediately engaged and enlivened by working within this business. I thoroughly enjoy watching them develop both practical transferable skills and, perhaps more importantly, interpersonal and organisational skills through dealing with customers, managing the accounts and promoting and running the business.

“The future plans for the business are to maintain its success and to further develop the healthy living aspects of riding bicycles for pleasure. We aim to explore the local countryside, which is a natural spin off. I would also like to encourage senior pupils to teach their skills to younger pupils.

“I see this type of business as very much a community based service and a vehicle for pupils to develop their skills, interests, self confidence and chance to take responsibility.

“I get a steady steam of pupils from across the school asking to become bike mechanics which shows there is great demand and interest in this type of skill in this type of activity – the pupils clearly value the status it gives them and spend time telling their friends all about what they are learning!”