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Enterprise boldly goes

The Scottish Executive is considering a major change of direction in one of its expensive flagship policies because pupils are failing to connect with it.

A senior Executive official told The TESS that it may drop the word "enterprise" from its enterprise in education strategy because new research shows pupils have no "natural affinity" with the term.

A study into young people's perceptions of success found pupils have difficulty engaging with the concept of enterprise, but can identify positively with the notion that success is achieved through personal goals.

The independent organisation commissioned by the Executive to carry out part of the research into its Determined to Succeed policy, TNS System Three, recommended: "It may be more worthwhile to examine elements of the strategy that constitute enterprise, rather than referring to the actual word itself."

It adds: "The danger attached to pushing 'enterprise' as an abstract idea is that it could become associated with just another thing that is learned at school, thereby couching it in educational terms rather than something that can be applied now and in the future."

Lynn Hendry, project director of the Executive's Determined to Succeed division, said the research confirmed a hypothesis already held by government that the language used in the strategy was a barrier for both teachers and pupils.

She said: "It is very clear to us that the messages we communicate and the medium we use to communicate them have to be more sophisticated than we had anticipated. This work has shown that just expecting young people to do enterprise in education in school and understand how these transferable skills will be taken forward in later life is not the way to go."

The Executive's strategy was launched in March 2003 and pound;86m has been allocated for it until 2008. The entrepreneur Tom Hunter has also donated pound;2m via his charitable organisation, the Hunter Foundation.

Ewan Hunter, the foundation's chief executive, said: "We need to take the benefit of any research and apply it to Determined to Succeed.

Fundamentally, this is all about instilling a 'can-do' attitude and the attributes that will allow children to succeed in the things they want to achieve. We need to take on board this research and apply these findings as soon as we possibly can."

In their report, the researchers say: "Due to lack of affinity with the notion of enterprise, TNS System Three recommends focusing on the notion of success in future communication."

They continue: "This is not to say that the notion of enterprise should be ignored. However, it is vital to realise that there is no natural connection with enterprise."

The report argues: "Enterprise as a concept does not exist for the pupils on a conscious level; rather it is familiar to the pupils in this context only as a result of schools labelling certain activities 'enterprising'.

There is no natural affinity with the notion of enterprise and, where there is knowledge, it is derived from learning at school."

Teachers questioned for the survey were all responsible for enterprise in their schools and, as such, were advocates of it. But they acknowledged that their views were not embraced by all teachers within their schools, particularly older teachers.

In a parallel report, Benchmarking research of young people's perceptions of enterprise, carried out by another organisation, Synovate, a survey was carried out of the views of P7 and S4 pupils.

The researchers found that pupils' attitudes were formed in their earlier years and, without intervention, could be carried through their entire secondary school years.

They therefore recommend that to avoid the "shy and intelligent" P7 youngsters becoming the "unconfident aspirers" at S4, work should be done to develop the confidence of the P7 group. This should ensure they show "quietly optimistic" traits by S4.

The researchers also call for action to prevent the "drifters" of P7 from forming "just want a job" attitudes by S4, engaging them in non-educational activities to help them to become "determined individuals".

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