Business targets toughest so far

20th December 2002 at 00:00
Neil Munro reports that enterprise education will be at the heart of the curriculum, to the tune of pound;40m by 2006

Schools have been given tough new targets for embedding enterprise education at the heart of the curriculum.

The long-awaited report from a review group, chaired by Nicol Stephen, the Deputy Education Minister, has recommended 2,000 partnership agreements between schools and businesses by 2006, an entitlement to enterprise activities for all pupils from P1 to S6 every year and a work-based vocational learning opportunity for every pupil over the age of 14 along lines already piloted in Glasgow and Dundee.

The report significantly switches the broad-based emphasis of enterprise education to stimulating the growth of entrepreneurship. "The ultimate goal of enterprise in education must be the creation of successful businesses, jobs and prosperity," the report states.

Its approach is symbolically underlined by the proposal to change the umbrella name of "education for work and enterprise" to "enterprise in education".

Learning and Teaching Scotland, which was represented on the review group, will also be told to look again at its materials and guidance "in order to reflect more clearly the importance of enterprise in education, to include enterprise and entrepreneurship".

The switch in emphasis in the report appears to mark a victory for the entrepreneurial wing of the review group, as represented by the businessmen Tom Hunter and Charles Skene, against the educational voice embodied notably in John Mulgrew, director of education for East Ayrshire.

The Executive is expected to issue its formal response next month but, given Mr Stephen's pivotal role, it is unlikely to depart in any fundamental detail from the report. Ministers have already signalled the significant importance they attach to enterprise education by committing pound;40 million to it over the next three years, compared with public funding of pound;2.5m now.

Mr Stephen's emphasis was made very clear on Tuesday at the report's launch at St Paul's High in Glasgow. "Scotland needs more young people who want to set up new businesses and make them grow. They need the confidence and self-belief to take appropriate risks. The Scottish economy needs talented individuals with a broad range of skills - and that must include more skilled tradespeople, such as plumbers and electricians," he said.

Mr Stephen called for "a change in culture - a culture in which young people are determined to succeed and have the right skills to succeed."

The Executive acknowledges that the report is ambitious. It even suggests that leadership within schools requires "learning to hand over the reins (to pupils) and allowing them to be the leaders".

All aspects of teaching will be expected to be involved - including revamping teacher training programmes to reflect the new initiatives and ensuring that all teachers have "enterprise experiences" at least once every two years as part of their continuing professional development.

The review group wants the Executive to give its proposals teeth. Local authority education improvement plans and school development plans must indicate how they plan to implement the report's proposals, and the inspectorate must draw up quality indicators to ensure that the recommendations are implemented on the ground. There will be a national forum, chaired by a Minister, to oversee the entire initiative.

The group also urges the business world to play its part. The CBI, Federation of Small Businesses, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Entrepreneurial Exchange and other business organisations will be asked to appoint one "champion" for enterprise in education.

The final piece of the jigsaw will be a national awards scheme, which will recognise achievements in this field.

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