And The Apprentice is ... Stella

Stella English left school without any qualifications. Sixteen years later, the 31-year-old woman, who has two children, has won the sixth series of the BBC contest The Apprentice.

Her prize is a £100,000-a-year job working for the Amstrad millionaire Alan Sugar. Ms English, who grew up on Thamesmead Housing Estate, became Lord Sugar's sixth apprentice after beating Chris Bates, a 24-year-old investment banker, in the final, televised last night.

The two remaining contestants led teams of rejected applicants to devise and produce a new brand of alcoholic drink, albeit with limited success. The screening of this series of The Apprentice was delayed for seven months to avoid clashing with May's general election, with the BBC worried about a breach of impartiality due to Lord Sugar's close connections with the Labour Party.

As a result, Ms English has spent the past year working quietly for her mentor's Viglen Group as a project manager in schools and hospitals. Naming her the winner, Lord Sugar said: "What I've seen over the past weeks, Stella, is that clearly you are a great organiser of people. You do know how to handle a team. Well liked and determined to get on with whatever you're asked to do.

"I've also taken note of where you have come from; the fact that at an early age you never had any qualifications and then went out of your way to train yourself."

On the programme, Ms English described having a "painful childhood". Her father, whose name does not appear on her birth certificate, abandoned her at a young age. Her mother, Drusilla, was unable to care for her due to illness, so she was eventually taken in by her great aunt, Stella Brockman, a woman Ms English describes as her "inspiration".

As a teenager she left school with no qualifications, but later completed a one-year business course and became a PA at the Japanese investment bank Daiwa, working there for 10 years.

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