The inspectorate is to step up its scrutiny of enterprise in education, as Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector, admits provision is still too "patchy" in many schools.
Speaking at the launch in Aberdeen last week of quality indicators for enterprise in education, Mr Donaldson revealed there would be a major inspection of the initiative in 2006-07.
At that stage, he said, it would be four years after the publication of the Scottish Executive's Determined to Succeed policy. "It would not be unreasonable to expect that by then schools have raised their game and we should be able to see evidence of increasingly effective approaches."
Mr Donaldson made clear inspectors would be looking for evidence, not just of significant enterprise activities, but of the impact these have made on learning and achievement.
Future inspections, Mr Donaldson said, would "push the boundaries a bit more" so that they concentrated on the impact on pupils (what they can achieve) rather than inputs (activities).
But a research study from Strathclyde University's education faculty, drawing on the accounts of 600 youngsters from 26 primaries and the early years at 10 secondaries (see panel), says it is difficult to disentangle the various factors that go to make up the enterprising experience.
The report concludes that, while a great deal has been achieved, enterprise in education remains "fragile". It was therefore important that it became embedded in the curriculum, as a routine part of the life of a school, "rather than some special project which is undertaken at a particular moment in the school's and the child's life to win a prize or impress HMI or gain some favourable publicity among parents and the community".
The launch of the new self-evaluation guide, as part of the How Good Is Our School? series, is intended as another signal from the Executive that there will be no let-up in its determination to press on with what is a flagship policy, to which it has committed more than pound;40 million.
Lewis Macdonald, then Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, was present to give visible expression to that determination. Mr Macdonald underlined the importance of moving away from an approach that treats enterprise in education as a "bolt-on" series of activities to one that will "fundamentally change the ways teachers teach and the way pupils learn".
He said that this would involve schools preparing young people for work by encouraging a climate of "aspiration and creativity, perspiration as well as inspiration".
Mr Donaldson commented: "My personal vision is that, in five to 10 years, the message underlying enterprise in education will not be easily identifiable as distinct elements. They will be powerful but often invisible within the curriculum. I see that as one important challenge for the forthcoming curriculum review."
The self-evaluation guide, which will have a 30,000 print run so all teachers can get their hands on a copy, makes it clear HMI will be looking for a range of evidence to check on the progress of enterprise in education - from 5-14 language performance to explicit entrepreneurial activities.
The guide defines enterprise in education as being about effective teaching and learning which in turn will make a direct contribution to pupils'
experience of enterprise in education. The whole approach, it states, should be to provide "real contexts" for pupils and to promote "the personal relevance of schooling by developing understanding and experience of roles which the individual may play in the future".
Mr Donaldson said primary inspections already include an evaluation of pupils' wider achievements in areas such as creativity, exercise of responsibility and independence in learning.
He recalled his involvement at the beginnings of enterprise in education, dating back to education for work initiatives a quarter of a century ago when the message then was similar to what it is now - that this whole field is "too dependent on committed individuals".
Despite considerable movements since then, "the full significance of enterprise and social entrepreneurship as part of every young person's educational experience has yet to be fully realised".
Even in schools with a strong record of enterprise in education, Mr Donaldson said, "provision is often still patchy, for example between subjects or curriculum areas. Few measure up to the idea of a broad entitlement."
But Mr Donaldson warned that schools need backing. "That support has to derive from real partnership with local businesses and that means business and industry must themselves be prepared to invest in this work and to sustain that investment."
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