Enterprise takes flight
Some schools have found success using enterprise schemes to connect with disaffected, at risk and even excluded students. It's all in a day's work.
Brislington Enterprise College in Bristol has found a practical way of dealing with students who have not responded to mainstream curriculum - put them to work.
Through the charity Young Enterprise, the school runs an Enterprise in Action programme as part of a special timetable for students who don't attend regular lessons. These year 10 and 11 students have chosen vocational-based courses leading to GCSE accreditation.
The students have one day a week at South Bristol College. In the remaining timetable at Brislington, they spend 20 hours a fortnight in regular lessons, including mathematics and English, and 20 hours working with the enterprise programme.
"The Enterprise in Action programme gives students a different way of learning," says Sarah Bennett, who runs the programme with her colleague Claire Harvey.
"They respond well to having a business adviser delivering the course and it's a really practical way for them to link what they're doing in school with what they hope to be doing in the future.
"We find it is a very effective teaching tool for a group of mixed ability students."
Brislington also runs a programme in which students set up their own business.
Under the guidance of a volunteer business adviser, they elect a board of directors from amongst their peers, raise share capital, and market and finance a product or service of their own choice. At the end of the year, they liquidate the company and present reports and accounts.
Students have sold Bristol calendars, decorative tiles and jewellery boxes made from recycled wood. "At a recent curriculum evening, we showcased work from our Young Enterprise programmes for parents and colleagues to see," says Sarah.
"It was at that point that our colleagues were able to see the benefits of these programmes and any previous negativity or lack of enthusiasm was overcome."
She acknowledges: "It is a different style of teaching - you have to be quite flexible as it's largely student-led learning. But that suits these students. They can find their level within the programme and no one is left out."
Learn to earn
Young Enterprise, which supports the programme, has been providing business and enterprise education in schools for more than 40 years. Its longest running scheme, the Company Programme, sees students aged 15 to 19 set up and run their own company over the course of one academic year.
In recent years a range of new programmes have been added to Young Enterprise's suite. One in particular, Learn to Earn, was originally designed for at risk students and those not responding to the mainstream curriculum.
Learn to Earn gives 13 to 15 year-olds an activity-based introduction to the relationship between learning and attainment of personal goals.
As with all Young Enterprise programmes this is done through the support of a volunteer from business who leads classroom discussion, delivers activities and enriches the programme with his or her own experience and knowledge.
Schools are also using enterprise to engage students who have been excluded from school or are at risk of being excluded in the near future. Beacon Learning Centre in Liverpool is one.
Regardless of the reason students are considered to be at risk, Karen Hamlin, Impact KS4 Alternative Curriculum teacher, has found that enterprise offers them a positive learning experience.
She explains: "The focus of the Company Programme is on achieving. In the past our students have been more familiar with what they can't do or what they have difficulty with but this programme looks at the positives."
At the start of the year the students are introduced to their Young Enterprise business adviser. In their first meetings with him or her, they discuss enterprise and what goes into setting up a business.
"Most of the group will never have thought of running their own company before," said Karen, "but pretty soon their companies are up and running, the students are engaged and enthusiastic and they're putting in extra hours to ensure it's a success.
"Coming up to Christmas we took part in local trade fairs and the students got a big kick out of the 'wow' factor they see amongst customers."
Roy Broadbent, Beacon's business adviser, says: "This scheme has great benefits for kids who are going off the rails or struggling at school. It's a challenge for them but they rise to the occasion. They get a real buzz out of being part of a successful business and having the opportunity to make progress.
"Several of our companies have won awards over the years and the students involved in the programme develop life skills and can be brought back towards the mainstream."
Roy adds: "The role of the link teachers is crucial. They have to be dedicated to the potential the programme can deliver. Every teacher I've worked with has found it quite a commitment, but great fun. You can see the benefits for the students involved.
"One example that always stands out for me is that of a young student who was phobic of school. As we progressed through setting up the company, she assumed the role of chair and took responsibility for running the group meetings and ensuring the company achieved its goals.
"Based on her performance in that role she was awarded the local 'achiever of the year' award. When she attended an interview for university, she concentrated on her involvement in the Young Enterprise company and showed great confidence and expertise when talking about her experience.
"She got her place which I think is fantastic - especially since she'd struggled with mainstream education."
In another example, he recalls a student - one who regularly bullied others - who put himself in the usually democratically elected managing director role.
"The other students in the company were not happy to have an MD imposed on them and raised it at their regular meeting," recalls Roy. "The group voted and they appointed a new MD.
"The student who had been sacked went on to take up a more minor role in the company and to his credit he remained one hundred per cent dedicated.
"He was engaged, enthusiastic and comfortable with the groups decision to replace him - he could see it was the best decision for the whole group."
For many students like this, enterprise programmes help to develop confidence and life skills and make the most of the opportunity to prove themselves.
Says Karen Hamlin: "All their lives they've been told they're not any good and suddenly the public is showing enthusiasm for their company and its products. They are greatly motivated by their successes."
For more information on Young Enterprise business programmes, visit www.youngenterprise.org.uk
© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders