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Take a leaf out of our book

The Tree of Knowledge training firm has gone into partnership with pupils over enterprise education, writes Su Clark

Hanging in the corridor of Donibristle Primary in Dalgety Bay is a picture of former pupil Alan Burton. He is not the headteacher; he is not a member of a boy band or a C-list celebrity; and he is not a millionaire entrepreneur (at least, not yet).

Mr Burton is sales manager of Tree of Knowledge, a local firm that last month signed Fife's first official business partnership between a company and a school.

Over the past six months, ToK, a motivational training company, has given the school support by donating items to sell. However, the relationship is not, ostensibly, financial. Rather it is a commitment from a local business to provide time and expert knowledge to help the children with enterprise education.

When the school first linked up with ToK, last autumn, the enterprise officer involved, P7P6 teacher Joanne Hughes, had no idea of the connection between Donibristle and the company's sales manager. She was just interested in getting closer to the firm that produced one of her favourite enterprise resources, the Apodo system.

Mrs Hughes, who is in the second year of working towards the Standard for Headship, invited ToK to talk to pupils. When she discovered the connection she lost no time building on it. Mr Burton became a "friend" of the school, and the company, which was founded by two ex-teachers, Alan Walker and Jamie Russell, became involved in the school's enterprise projects.

"On their visit they talked to the children. They really enjoyed it and it went from there," she explains. "Early on we started talking about making the relationship official."

Since then ToK has been directly involved in the P7 project to produce visualisation CDs, providing extra CDs at cost to supplement the offer, and with P4 and P5, donating canvases so they can sell art work.

But ToK wanted to do more than give the school 'things'.

"We wanted it to be a relationship where we could help with the enterprise education," explains Mr Walker.

"The first thing we did was run interviews for the managerial roles in the P7 project. We treated it as if it were a proper job. They filled in application forms and attended interviews. I think we ended up picking children the teachers might not have done."

Mrs Hughes confirms this. "They didn't go for the academic high-flyers, but for the dynamic children, those who could grow up to be leaders. It was great for the children, because it made enterprise more than academic; it made it real. I've never seen the children so smartly dressed as on the day of the interviews."

Since then, the company has been advising on marketing, advertising and the organisation of a company. Someone from the company visits regularly and Mrs Hughes always makes a point of telephoning every week to keep the lines of communication open.

The next step is to have the P7 children come to the ToK offices for work experience. But the benefits are not all one way, as Mr Walker is keen to point out.

"We are a training company for education as well as corporate business and we get a lot back from our involvement with this school. It keeps us abreast of innovations and developments within the profession," he says.

"The teachers at Donibristle helped develop a new framework document for our Apodo system that ensures there is no duplication as children move up through the school."

This framework is now being rolled out to the rest of Scotland.

Meanwhile, Mr Burton has the pleasure of working closely with a school of which he obviously has fond memories and where all the children know his name.

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