Basic economics overlooked

6th June 2008 at 01:00
The focus on teaching pupils about enterprise may mean they fail to learn key concepts about economic theory, according to business studies teachers

The focus on teaching pupils about enterprise may mean they fail to learn key concepts about economic theory, according to business studies teachers.

Members of the Economics and Business Education Association (EBEA) were gathering in Birmingham today for their annual conference. A major topic is expected to be the new economic well-being and financial capability lessons which secondary schools will have to teach to key stage 3 and 4 pupils from September.

Duncan Cullimore, head of the EBEA, said many schools had embraced enterprise activities, such as setting up mini businesses, but that fundamental economics was being overlooked. "Most secondary pupils will do an enterprise activity, and will learn about teamwork and budgeting, but not the key underpinning ideas of how markets work and such," he said.

The problem could be exacerbated by the new economic well-being lessons, as schools would often be scheduling them as part of PSHE, thus assigning them to staff who had not trained to teach business studies or economics.

"Teachers in charge of enterprise activities at key stage 3 and 4 may not have the theoretical grounding to teach economic well-being and financial capability properly," Mr Cullimore said. "But school business studies and economics teachers are tied up teaching exam courses."

He suggested that schools should mobilise business and economics teachers to help teach the new courses, but this would require extra training and time.

Marie Getheridge, headteacher of Writhlington Business and Enterprise School in Radstock, near Bath, agreed that some schools may be unprepared to deliver economic well-being and financial capability. But her school is ready for the challenge.

Her recruitment policy favours teachers from commercial backgrounds, so they bring real-world experience into the classrooms.

"It's a fair point to say that some schools may not have enough properly trained staff for the new course, as they are specialising in other areas, but this isn't the case for us," said Ms Getheridge.

She added that focusing on enterprise education had significantly raised the school's exam results and contextual value-added scores. "It really helps pupils in their other subjects, and all our children know the bottom line is that a business has to make a profit."

Mr Cullimore's concerns come as research from the Young Enterprise scheme claimed enterprise education is "the most significant school experience" in enabling young people to develop key business and life skills.

In a survey of 721 Young Enterprise alumni, three quarters said their experience of school was useful for future work, compared to 57 per cent of a control group of 1,200 pupils who had not participated.

Aston Business School, where the EBEA is holding its conference, has announced that applications for its BSc in management and strategy have increased by more than a quarter since it emerged that Alex Wotherspoon, a finalist in the BBC series The Apprentice, had been on the course.


Surveys and focus groups would be the normal way for a consultancy to find out what young people think. Not perhaps, wandering up to them in a park and having a chat with them, sometimes over a cigarette.

But Force-7 is no ordinary consultancy: it was set up as a Young Enterprise company in Hull by 32 secondary pupils, aged 15 to 19.

The company has been hired by Hull City Council to consult young people on plans to rebuild all its secondary and special schools in a pound;400 million Building Schools for the Future project.

Philip Batty, Force-7's 18-year-old managing director, said: "You're going to get more out of young people talking person to person, having a laugh rather than asking them to fill in a questionnaire."

The result of the consultation with nearly 500 youngsters did reveal a surprise: students' non-attendance was not about schools' failure to engage with them. Instead, they "skived off" because classes did not contain the practical content they would find useful and motivating.

One of Force-7's key recommendations was that the rebuilding programme should be about rebuilding the education community right across the city, rather than just about renovating individual schools.

To do that, Hull City Council will look at social networking websites and use that as the base for building an online educational community.

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