Oxford provides the inspiration for 6.1 Bedales students

6.1 Economics students visited Oxford and were treated to a tour of the BMW MINI factory followed by a talk at G&D’s ice-cream company, with ample opportunity to sample their wares. The trip was designed to provide a springboard into the more conceptually challenging A2 course, in which students must relate concepts such as ‘diminishing returns’, market contestability, the impact of globalisation and economies of scale to the real world. At BMW, we were greeted and toured by Terry and John, who had worked at the plant since 1962 and were able to bring to life the impact of the decline of British manufacturing, the shift towards capital-intensive production, the increase in immigration and the rise of global sourcing. Both students and teachers were astounded by the complexity of modern car manufacturing, impressed by the hi-tech robotics, and boggled by the precision of the just-in-time technique whereby windscreens from China, cameras from Japan, electronics from Romania and engines from Swindon came together with millisecond precision; failure to meet these high standards set by BMW results in a fine of £17,000 per minute delay for the suppliers.

The contrast with the much smaller G&D gave students food for thought. Here we learned about the importance of having a detailed understanding of your customer base, the trade-off between quality and profit in the cafe industry, the impact of increased competition, and debt-free techniques to achieve business growth. We were surprised to learn that the company was recession-proof, and reasoned that customers with tightening incomes might have chosen to switch from visiting more expensive coffee chains or pubs, rather than stop going out at all. Overall, we had a fantastic trip that gives us a vast range of examples that we can continue to draw on in the teaching of economic theory over the final year of the A-level course.

By Ruth Tarrant, Head of Economics


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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