Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Launching high fliers

Flying a kite

Anne Evans of education charity HTI outlines why schools which want to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among students should consider the Go4it kitemark.

Amid all the doom, gloom and corporate financial crisis, entrepreneurship provides a beacon of hope. At a recent entrepreneurs lunch, Julie Meyer, founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital, highlighted the rise of the serial entrepreneur, the young entrepreneur, the portfolio entrepreneur and the lifestyle entrepreneur over the past decade in the UK.

She went on to say: "Leading entrepreneurs cite factors such as teachers who encouraged them to be everything they could be, or learning environments where they were taught to think outside of the box early on in their lives, as chief reasons why they became entrepreneurs."

We are living in extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures and extraordinary people to weather them. Our schools have the monumental task of developing people fit to meet these challenges: people who are confident in the face of difficulties, persistent, driven, innovative and who are not afraid of taking a calculated risk or of failure.

In short, people who have the blend of characteristics that are essential to an enterprising and entrepreneurial approach to life and work.

We only have to switch on the TV or radio to see why educational reform is so crucial. The world has moved on so much faster than our education system. Our Go4it champion, entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe, is one of many business leaders who fear our culture of risk aversion is robbing the UK of the next generation of entrepreneurs.

It is deeply ironic that, at a time when there has never been more uncertainty and turbulence in the world, children have never been so protected from risk. The media is awash with stories of cotton wool children who are spoon-fed in the classroom, prisoners in their own home and living life through the screen.

Enterprise and creativity

This, then, is the background to Go4it. And perhaps this is why a growing number of schools are willing to take on the undoubtedly rigorous Go4it assessment process, despite initiative overload. They welcome the opportunity to showcase the bigger picture achievements beyond the academic.

As Cat Mangham, deputy headteacher of Wootton Bassett School in Wiltshire, said: "We felt we were already well on the journey towards being a Go4it school and saw the assessment process as an opportunity to draw all the evidence together to celebrate our achievements. I believe Go4it will promote essential skills like leadership, enterprise and creativity in students and staff that are lost in a content-driven curriculum.

"It's made us realise how much we do to promote these skills, which has boosted staff morale, given students the opportunity to reflect on the skills they have gained and helped local businesses to appreciate what we're doing and how they can contribute. We see Go4it as a key area for inclusion and development in the school improvement plan."

Our assessors are looking for evidence of a total ethos of innovation and risk-friendly teaching practices and learning activities that pervade every aspect of school life, within and outside the classroom. Assessment is against eight criteria and follows a number of stages:

  • Establishment of a Go4it steering group drawn from across the school community

  • A written submission providing a portfolio of evidence against the criteria, including a section written and evidenced by students

  • A half-day assessment, including presentation of examples to support the portfolio, a targeted tour of the school and three sets of interviews involving staff and students

  • An assessment review day to determine whether the school has successfully met the Go4it criteria

Diversity and discovery

Schools invariably find the assessment process itself a revelation because it draws together staff, pupils and achievements from right across the school community.

The diversity and discovery of these achievements, many of which are unrecorded or have remained hidden, is not only a delightful eye-opener, it also helps to pinpoint innovative and entrepreneurial behaviours, reinforce them and use them to ignite new ideas. The very act of seeking out innovation is providing the impetus to go even further.

There are numerous examples of Go4it triggering activities that reinforce a can-do culture. A business enterprise project turned round from the brink of disaster by a group of pupils at Northwood College in Middlesex not only taught them lessons about steadiness in times of trouble and agreeing on difficult choices but also prompted them to look more closely at risk-taking in business.

They used Go4it as the umbrella for an investigation into the importance of risk-taking in the businesses they visited as part of 'Take Your Daughters to Work' day.

Other schools have Go4it themed assemblies and displays in their entrance halls. At Barstable School in Essex, students are working towards a Go4it award for individual staff and pupils. New Heys Community School in Liverpool is keen to create a Go4it portal linking it with other Go4it schools.

When times are hard and the pressure is on, there is always a temptation to play it safe and not to keep pushing forward. Our recessiondefying entrepreneurs would disagree.

If Go4it can act as regeneration for one school, think of the impact if that regeneration was replicated right across the system.

Anne Evans is chief executive of education leadership charity HTI.

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