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Teachers' Notes

Resource created by M&S Archive

Simon Marks took the helm at M&S aged just 19 years old. He was innovative in his leadership of the Company, introducing new ideas and making changes to existing practices, and ultimately made M&S the high street staple that it is today.

This resource is part of the M&S 'Making a Mark' suite, about individuals or initiatives that have made a significant impact within M&S in some way. The aim is to show how the actions of one person or group of people can cause changes that affect the lives of ordinary people. It can be used for teaching the subjects and topics shown in the Curriculum Links listed below.  

It can also be used to generate ideas and inspire students to make changes in their own community, to think about issues that matter to them and how to communicate this. 

Curriculum Links

  • KS3/4 Citizenship
  • KS3/4 PSHE 
  • KS4 Business 

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of the ways in which Simon Marks led M&S to success

  • Understanding  of how the innovation and entrepreneurial skills of one person can drive a successful business

  • Improved research skills , investigating primary sources  (photographs and newspaper articles)

Discussion Ideas

KS3/4 Citizenship:

  • Simon Marks was passionate about his work, and always tried to make a difference doing the things he believed in and cared about. What matters most to you and how do you communicate this to your friends, family, teachers etc? Do you know what is important to the people you are close to?
  • Read  Simon Marks' Christmas message to staff from 1960 (see Resources) - why do you think he wrote what he did, and what do you think the staff members thought when they read it?
  • Simon Marks said 'What's the use of being rich, unless you can do something with your money?' If you had lots of money, how would you use it to help other people?

KS4 Business:

  • What other companies can you think of that are run, or were set up by, friends/relatives? Do you think it's a good idea for best friends or relatives to work together? What problems can you think of that might arise? What would the benefits be?
  • Find out more about the role played by wholesalers in the supply chain to stores. Where do they fit in? Why might they have been reluctant to deal directly with the retailer?
  • If you were in charge of a large store like M&S, how would you make sure your decisions were the best ones for the success of the company?
  • Do you know of any other successful businessmen or women today who are thought of as philanthropists? How did they make their money and how do they help others with it?


  • What are your ambitions?
  • What would you like to be doing when you're 19? And what about when you're 28? Think about where you'd like to be and what you might need to do to get there.
  • A questionnaire that Simon Marks completed when he was 16 asks about 'favourite painters, pictures, actors, plays and musical compositions' among other things. Are these questions relevant to you today? What could they be replaced with to bring the questionnaire up to date?
  • Simon Marks made M&S the famous high street business that it is today. What does M&S represent to you, and how is this different from your opinion of other high street shops?

Activity Ideas

KS3/4 History:

  • Compare the photos of Eastbourne Penny Bazaar in 1924 and Bradford store in 1930. What differences can you see? How have Simon Marks' improvements been made?

KS3/4 Citizenship:

  • What can large companies do for the communities around them? If it was your business how would you use your influence to support the local area?
  • What can you do to make a positive change for other people? It could be something at home, school or in your community. Think big and small, then refine your list to things you could achieve in the next 6 months.

KS4 Business:

  • There are lots of different types of business. Find out more about business structures (such as sole traders, limited companies etc), and list the main features of each and the differences between them. The Supporting Links in 'Resources' might help.
  • Set up a real-life trading enterprise in your class, competing in teams to see which is the most successful. Ask your teacher for help or try one of the Supporting Links for ideas.
  • Watch the 20 minute video 'Let's Teach Kids to be Entrepreneurs' (see Supporting Links) then give a five minute presentation to your class summarising its main messages
  • Play the interactive game Be a Victorian Millionaire Now! on My Learning - imagine you are the textile manufacturer and entrepreneur Benjamin Gott, solve business problems and make money by taking risks.
  • Make up a list of three questions you would ask Simon Marks if you were to meet him at a party. You only have three, so think very carefully about the wording of your questions to ensure you get the most useful and interesting answers


  • Make a blank copy of the questionnaire that Simon Marks completed at age 16 (see Resources), then fill in your own answers. Compare them with others in your class to see whether anyone has the same ambitions, likes and dislikes. What are the most popular answers?
  • Find out about other famous people and characters who have found themselves in positions of great responsibility at a young age. Imagine you are one of them and write about a day in your life; what sort of challenges will you face? Who else will you mention? How will you feel?
  • Read the articles in the 1964 edition of St Michael News (see Resources), commemorating the death of Simon Marks then write your own short tribute in the style of those on the last page, but from 'a young person'.


Entrepreneurial - being creative, ambitious and determined.
Commemorating - remembering and showing respect for something or someone.
Philanthropist - a person who loves mankind in general; a very generous person or institution.
Wholesaler - person or company that buys large quantities of goods from various producers, stores them in a warehouse and re-sells them to retail shops.