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Enterprise boldly goes ahead

One primary's approach to business activities exemplifies the Executive's latest thinking, reports David Henderson

Christmas is past but next Christmas is another business opportunity for pupils at St Helen's primary in Cumbernauld.

Enterprising pupils, acting as company directors, sold batches of cards to a business in Glasgow for the second year running and to two others in the local area.

They are now looking ahead to next year with orders likely to be placed before the summer holidays.

Headteacher Alice Quinn contends that enterprise activities, covering all 400 nursery and primary pupils, are changing attitudes to business. She fully supports the Scottish Executive's drive on enterprise, launched by Nicol Stephen, the Deputy Education Minister, before the Christmas break.

Mrs Quinn said the school's approach to enterprise has picked up over the past two years after it was piloted with P5 pupils in an Easter art project. The community started asking for other cards, such was the quality, she said.

"We started making Easter cards, Christmas cards and cards for general and special occasions. Children's activities were funded by an enterprise grant, sponsorship from local companies and profits from card sales in school. The children reinvested the cash from their Christmas card sale to buy stock for Mother's Day. From that stage, the company was never again in debt to the school," Mrs Quinn said.

The pupils' company upgraded its resources and encouraged every pupil to join in from nursery upwards. Keen entrepreneurs advertised positions in the company, designed logos, marketed their products and looked after the books, finding time during lunch breaks and after school.

Their commitment led this year to nursery pupils making candle holders, P1s making paperweights and P5 pupils bookmarks. Meanwhile, one senior pupil is making jewellery and using the school's suppliers to order materials.

Another two pupils have formed a partnership and want to work from home, selling their cards and decoupage pictures through craft shops in Glasgow. Nine pupils are now young entrepreneurs.

After the two-year experience, Mrs Quinn believes ministers are on the right lines in encouraging enterprise education. "Our generation thought it was taboo to think about starting a business but hopefully that attitude has changed. Teamwork, motivation and commitment are all very important parts of a child's education and are evident throughout enterprise education." she adds: "Whole-school and nursery enterprise sits well, with attainment levels well above the national average."

Meanwhile, Charles Skene, an Aberdeen businessman and member of the Executive's enterprise in education committee, has hit back at criticism of the report three weeks ago in The TES Scotland.

In an article, he states: "Our traditional education is still rooted in the past when most of our young people obtained well-paid employment for life. Not now. The business world has changed and self-employment will become the way forward for more and more Scots whether through 'necessity'

entrepreneurship or 'opportunity' entrepreneurship. To help them compete and succeed, our educational system needs to light the spark of enterprise that has been allowed to lie dormant in all but the most entrepreneurial."

He continues: "Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that their success in business had little to do with passing exams. It was to do with attitude, willingness to take risks and determination to succeed."

Platform, page 21

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