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Enterprise for the next generation

Enterprise for the next generation

With the 101 other initiatives being implemented in 2005, schools will be forgiven if the new 'enterprise education' entitlement hasn't yet reached the top of the list. Simon Firth offers some thoughts on getting enterprise off the ground.

Last year - amid the new SEF, staff restructuring and school improvement partners - the government brought in a new enterprise education entitlement which requires schools to provide all key stage 4 students with the equivalent of five days' enterprise experience from September 2005.

To its credit, along with the mandate the government pledged £60 million of funding to support enterprise education. For secondary schools, this means £15,000 in an 'enterprise standards fund', given each year for three years, to develop the enterprise entitlement.

This funding is not ring fenced although it is naturally recommended that schools spend the money on enterprise provision.

According to Teachernet, the enterprise entitlement should focus on enterprise capability - innovation, creativity, risk-management and the drive to make ideas happen - supported by financial literacy and economic and business understanding.

Importantly for schools, it adds: "Enterprise capability is a key output of work related learning programmes, which became statutory in September 2004."

Enterprise has been on the table since June 2001, when the Treasury and the DTI produced a paper Enterprise and Productivity. From this came the 2002 report by Sir Howard Davies.

He maintained that young people seeking work in the future are likely to need to be more flexible and entrepreneurial. Even in larger firms and the public and voluntary sectors, entrepreneurial skills are more highly valued than they were in the past. Education, he said, plays a crucial role in preparing young people for this.

Enterprise pathfinder

In September 2003, a number of enterprise pathfinder schools were selected to test strategies for delivering enterprise education. Swanlea School was one of them. In conjunction with Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership and other schools in the borough, we delivered one of the largest pathfinder projects in the country.

An essential part of the pathfinder, we felt, was an entitlement for all students to develop enterprise skills. This proved difficult to fulfil owing to the nature of most projects.

However, we found that the key to successful provision was embedding the strands of enterprise into the existing curriculum. This was something we managed through the development of enterprise rooms around the school - more on that later.

At Swanlea School, we interpret enterprise as the ability to make things happen in whatever context or setting. The idea is that we create an environment where enterprise skills flourish - entrepreneurial skills can be one of many outcomes.

We have linked enterprise to the curriculum from year 7 upwards and trained staff to deliver this in a unique and challenging setting.

Re-educating staff

The initial reaction from staff gave us our starting point. "Isn't enterprise all about making money? And what does it have to do with teaching English?"

To make enterprise work effectively throughout the school, we realised we had to first battle the misconceptions and provide a genuine learning experience for staff.

This is what we tried: We started the 're-education' with one full Inset day to help colleagues learn for themselves what enterprise means and how they can develop it in their teaching.

We sent our entire staff out to a range of organisations to start a 'conversation' about enterprise. Hosts for the visits included Bank of America commodity trading, the DfES, Ethnic Minority Enterprise Project, Pentonville Prison, Jagonari Women's Centre, Bankside Restaurant EC2 (Small Business of the Year 2004-05), Welbeck Consulting Group, KPMG, The Hoxton Apprentice and HALKEVI Kurdish Refugee Centre.

At this point, staff were working in cross-faculty groups. Using the three propositions below as stimulus, they were given time to prepare questions for the businesses they were going to visit.

  • It's better to be enterprising. This is true of schools and businesses, teachers and students and in society in general.

  • You can't teach people to be enterprising but they can be encouraged by good leadership and an enterprising environment.

  • People who work in schools are enterprising by profession and have as much to teach business people about creating enterprising environments as the other way round.

Following the visits, faculties agreed an action plan for developing enterprise and there were follow up meetings to ensure that enterprise became embedded across the curriculum. Some example action points included:

  • Science. To be more creative in the lessons. To manage risk better, encourage independent learning and self evaluation.

  • Maths. To take five minutes at the beginning of the weekly faculty meeting to discuss what we witnessed as being enterprising this week.

Bringing enterprise to life

Having overcome some significant barriers, the whole staff are now in a much better position to bring enterprise to life in the classroom.

To support their efforts we have now established one enterprise room in each faculty. In practice, this means that a room has been redeveloped with enhanced resources that facilitate improved enterprise provision.

For example, the science and enterprise room has a sign on the door, interactive whiteboard, projector, laptop, notice board, redecoration and a display theme on 'discovery'. This discovery theme permeates the science curriculum.

Teachers reflect on how key discoveries become part of our daily lives and the process that leads scientific ideas to become commercial successes through entrepreneurial activity - in other words the process of getting a new discovery from concept to the marketplace.

We also offer a range of applied GCSEs to expand the breadth of our offer. In design and technology, pupils look at famous inventors and designers and what makes them successful. Dyson is one commercial case study that is often used.

Pupils are encouraged to be creative and innovative in their designs and to try to bring their products to market.

One example involved a fair trade project in which students designed and built a modern, attractive market stall that could be used in the school foyer. The stall is now widely used by our Young Enterprise companies.

In mathematics, we offer financial literacy to our year 8 pupils. They follow a functional mathematics curriculum designed by the Personal Finance Education Group.

Having made progress on building enterprise into the curriculum, students are in an excellent position to develop their interests through extra-curricular activity such as Young Enterprise, social enterprise projects, fund raising, debating and presentation competitions and so on.

One of the key skills that pupils develop is communication and this has unlocked the curriculum for many pupils. Students in our web design company all achieved an A* on their GCSE orals which was much higher than predicted.

Links with business

Seeking out links with top businesses is a great way to support a school's provision and, in our case, transformed the enterprise and work-related learning offer for a whole key stage. The Merrill Lynch Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme (MLEE) is one example.

The MLEE Programme redefines the ways schools and businesses work together in the sense that it shows how intelligent, joined up thinking can bring corporate giants into the classroom in an accessible way for students. The scheme is operating in Swanlea School, Mulberry Girls School and Bow Boys School.

Merrill Lynch staff work with our students on part of the programme called 'basic beliefs'.

They discuss the principles that a successful company such as Merrill Lynch has adopted - principles like teamwork, responsible citizenship and respect for the individual. The students then have to develop their own principles for their school or community.

A detailed lesson plan has been produced which teachers can either use on their own or with the help of local business people.

Our post-16 students have led the way this year in terms of developing enterprise. They were recently filmed by the BBC, which challenged them to set up a business in five days with the end result being a stall at the Saturday Camden Market.

The idea was teach business finance in a creative and interesting way using a mini enterprise as the hook for the content. The programme will air on BBC 2 in 2006.

The business has branched out into a series of divisions which offer employment opportunities for students in years 7 to 11. They also balance their commercial activities with fundraising and charitable donations.

In future we may use this model to develop a school holding company for all enterprise activities. This will help us track and record student progress and monitor the activities of each operation.

Our enterprise provision is about raising achievement and aspirations for everyone so it is essential to build a coherent provision which maps across the curriculum and allows opportunities for personal growth both within the school day and during out-of-hours learning.

We have found that the success and media interest has raised the aspirations of our pupils. The 'enterprise buzz' and can-do attitude has made a real contribution to improving behaviour and raising standards in the classroom.

Simon Firth is assistant headteacher at Swanlea School, a business and enterprise college in Tower Hamlets, London. To find out more, contact him at sfirth@swanlea.towerhamlets.sch.uk

Getting started

It is worth noting that the school SEF reflects the Every Child Matters agenda and that every secondary school must be able to demonstrate how well it enables learners to develop enterprise capability, economic and business understanding, and financial literacy. Ofsted will report on this.

The key issue for schools is to develop coherent policy and practice based on a clear understanding of enterprise within the context of the school. All schools develop communication, problem solving and risk taking skills so this could be the starting point for developing policy.

The following questions may also be useful in getting started:

  • What do we already do that maps in with the new enterprise entitlement?

  • Can we develop enterprise provision in key stage 3 to spread work related learning (WRL) and enterprise across the school?

  • Can we combine our WRL/enterprise provision? Probably a good idea!

  • Can we adapt our PSHE/citizenship programmes to support the entitlement?

  • Can we develop enterprise capability through English, maths and science?

  • Can we place financial literacy in key stage 3 maths?

  • Which member of the leadership team is going to have oversight?

  • What are the staff training implications?

  • How can we accredit student achievement?

  • What are our success criteria?

Resources and more information

  • To read more about the projects at Swanlea School and other schools in Tower Hamlets, visit their Enterprise on Demand website at www.eod.org.uk

  • A number of useful case studies have emerged from the pathfinder groups. They can be found on www.teachernet.gov.uk/enterpriseeducation

  • The functional maths curriculum from Personal Finance Education Group is available to all schools on CD. Visit www.pfeg.org

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