Innovative Practice - Whizz-kids

Using play and business schemes to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in children from the age of 4

The background

A scheme that started in Rotherham, a South Yorkshire town struggling with high unemployment, has helped teachers to inspire enterprise in children from the age of 4.

The project

Employers in Rotherham told the council and schools that children needed to have more than just academic qualifications to improve their chances of employment: they needed to develop entrepreneurial skills, too.

In response, the council set up Rotherham Ready, a project to help teachers embed enterprise in the primary curriculum. The project expanded to neighbouring Derbyshire where 20 schools are now involved in Derbyshire Ready, backed by the county council.

In February this year, the heads of four Derbyshire schools became the first teachers to train colleagues in enterprise education when they shared their experiences with the heads of 14 nearby schools. The scheme has spread to areas including Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Deptford in South London.

Students are introduced to enterprise at the age of 4 through play characters or puppets, who are used, for example, to show the importance of teamwork for entrepreneurs and the language that goes with it.

Typical of the enterprise schemes students learn to develop are those at Killamarsh Junior School in Sheffield, where students set up and marketed a "museum" in the school hall, promoting local artefacts, writing about the area's history, and creating artwork, activities and PowerPoint presentations.

Year 3 students also came up with the idea of visiting the local post office for advice on helping them to organise the large volume of mail the school was receiving at Christmas.

And like many other schools in the scheme, Killamarsh children organise and run school fairs, coming up with ideas for stalls and making cakes, artwork and other items to sell.

Students also raised the issue of parents being unable to stay long at the fair because they had to take their younger children home early. The budding entrepreneurs solved this problem by setting up a creche and charging parents 50p for each child they looked after.

"It's important that teachers are given the freedom to help children come up with entrepreneurial ideas, and make mistakes and learn from them," says Catherine Brentnall, director of Are You Ready?, the organisation behind the regional schemes. "These are vital skills they will need in an increasingly competitive world."

Tips from the scheme

Make sure you have the headteacher's full backing.

An enterprise culture must be developed through the existing curriculum.

Developing enterprise skills must be viewed as a critical part of a modern education.

Evidence that it works?

The scheme has won international acclaim for its approach to integrating enterprise into learning. In 2010, Rotherham won the Enterprising Britain competition. In 2011, as the project expanded nationally, Are You Ready? won the StartUp Britain best enterprise support award.


Approach: Encouraging enterprise from the age of 4


Name: Killamarsh Junior School (and others)

Location: Sheffield

Students: About 300

Type: Mixed primary

Age range: 7-11

Intake: Mainly white British.

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