5 February 2009

“Enterprise in Education” is an area which has always facinated me – ever since my time in school! There is no doubt that the concept of ensuring that our young people are shown the benefits of enterprising behaviour is a good one. My problem is with how it is being implemented. Like so many initiatives it gets watered down as it passes through various bodies until it is no longer recognisable.

I have come across several schools that display truly inspirational leadership in this field and I will return to them in the future. But why is it that so few schools want to embrace what is one of the key skills required for any job seeker or fledgling entrepreneur?

I can only speak in broad terms on this subject and I acknowledge that there will always be exceptions. Each secondary school has a budget for enterprise (c£15k on average) and as befits the subject has full authority to spend it as it sees fit. If you look at the Teachernet site which gives guidance on the subject it is enough to drive any businessman to tears of frustration. There is little innovation evidenced, a propensity to gravitate to links with other educational institutions, and well worn tilts towards “ticking the box”.

This is a subject where the major industry bodies, BERR and individual companies need to wrestle the agenda away from DCSF. There needs to be fresh thinking in this arena and more political will expended to become a truly enterprising society. So many children are enterprising in different ways and yet instead of harnessing this we seek to squeeze it out of them in an attempt to conform.

How many successful entrepreneurs were “straight A” students at school? How many were considered “troublesome”? I will bet that the latter far exceeds the former. Now is the time for us to develop the type of individuals who will make a real difference to our future by fostering and encouraging enterprise in its varied forms. EVERY school should have a clear enterprise programme which is evidenced day by day in the ethos of the school.

As a company we find it very difficult to offer our help to schools as there is little desire to work with industry apart from the annual work experience request. So what is the solution? Well we need to start off by engaging the teachers, enthusing them and showing how it will benefit them and their students. Without the active support of teaching staff this experiment will go nowhere. The question is do we start with a few and then let the message spread or try all at once? I would suggest that the budgets are withdrawn and reallocated to schools who produce a plan of action on what they will do. Make it a competition and it will attract the enterprising schools who will get a decent amount of money to deliver their aims. Next year the winning schools have to partner with a non participating school and spread the practice and so on. Parents will soon get to know if their school is dragging its feet!

Too radical to implement no doubt!

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