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Pioneering spirit can steer the way ahead

You wouldn't think Scotland was in a recession when you read about all the new companies starting up - in clothes, foods, bicycles, events management. Nor would you think there was high youth unemployment when you read how many of these are started by young entrepreneurs (p18). You might, however, be surprised that some of them are as young as seven or eight and all of them are still at school.

This week's feature about the Social Enterprise Academy awards is a heart- warming story, but it is also a serious lesson in enterprise and transferable skills. How important these are is underlined by the review of post-16 education and vocational training led by Willy Roe, chair of Skills Development Scotland (p8).

Although Roe's report focuses on older students and the role of colleges and employers, it makes the point that the development of career management skills is "well under way right across the five stages of Curriculum for Excellence, from First Stage (pre-school to P1) to the final stage (Senior Phase - S4-S6 or 18)".

The evidence from the social enterprise schools is that the new curriculum is offering them scope for the kind of creativity and initiative that drive business and make young people employable, and encouraging links with the community and local employers. We see it again at Hawick High (p24), where the art department worked with local industry to create a textiles day.

In all these stories, there is evidence of good practice, teachers pushing the limits of their imagination and of their pupils' capabilities. Much of that is down to individuals, but credit also has to go to agencies such as Learning and Teaching Scotland and HMIE, which have been paving the way, trying to lay down the ground rules. They have not always been popular and they still have their critics to face, but when a teacher takes the essence of Curriculum for Excellence and runs with it, you realise why there is international interest in what we are doing here in Scotland.

The education agencies themselves have not been exempt from the recession and exigencies of the business world. When LTS and HMIE merged in July into a single body, Education Scotland, staff numbers were cut by 30 per cent and budgets by pound;6-7 million (News Focus, pp12-15). Now, as one organisation, it will set out to support and challenge schools and colleges across the country. Concerns have been raised about how its curriculum development and inspection arms will work together and whether there isn't a conflict of duty. It will take all chief executive Bill Maxwell's psychology training to resolve that one but, handled with due creativity and initiative, the new body could be greater than the sum of its parts.

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