Cafe culture offers flavour of enterprise

19th March 2010 at 00:00
100 international visitors sampled the Determined to Succeed programme

The sunlit cafe on the first floor of the new campus wasn't always as bulging with satisfied customers as it is today, says Tom Nisbet, depute head at Park School, Kilmarnock, whose students have learning or physical difficulties.

"It's like Aberdeen on a flag day," he says. "But parents, staff and people around here soon got to hear how good it was. So it's this busy every week now."

The green-field views, airy ambience, and attentive students in smart, pink aprons, co-ordinated with the tablecloths, are all part of the appeal - as is the stuff they are selling. "That chocolate cake in the corner is nice," says Scott Kasper, 18, offering a tray laden with cream cakes and luxury biscuits. "I made it."

Seated behind the cash desk, Rachael Baird, 17, who aims to study art at college, remembers the day delegates from an international conference came to her school. "We had to set up the cafe downstairs to show them what we did, because it wasn't a Wednesday. It was good to talk to them, although some were quite hard to understand."

Chatting with strangers, such as school visitors or cafe customers, is more difficult than with people you know, she smiles. "But it does get easier the more you do it."

Learning life skills like these is the motive for embedding enterprise deeply in the Park School curriculum, says headteacher Debbie Stickland. "It goes right from P1 to S6, and we have all kinds of activities - eco- schools, making and selling popcorn, healthy sandwiches, board games. The cafe is a big part of the curriculum for our S5s and S6s.

"The children do it all - shopping, cooking, serving, handling the money, washing up and ironing afterwards, talking and listening to people. We have now got them working on a recipe book. The confidence our kids get from all this is tremendous."

Many enterprise education ideas come from within the school - from staff and pupils, says Mrs Stickland. "They like working on ideas they've come up with themselves. But we also work closely with the local authority's enterprise co-ordinator, who is funded through Determined to Succeed.

"Enterprise education is not about any one activity. It's a process. It's a very inclusive way of learning," she says.

It is also ideal for dispelling preconceptions about Park School pupils, says Mr Nisbet. "People who come to our cafe will say, `I didn't know they were like that' - by which they mean polite, nice to talk to, high performing. There is this outside perception of what youngsters in special education are like.

"Enterprise activities like this cafe are a good way for our pupils to learn life skills. But they are also a great way to display those skills and a solid platform to help them move on from here."

The visitors with the variety of accents that gave Park School pupils some trouble were taking part in a recent three-day conference hosted by Determined to Succeed. A hundred delegates from as far afield as Estonia, Norway and the US came to Edinburgh to see Scotland's approach to enterprise in education within the new curriculum. Part of the aim was to raise Scotland's profile in the EU and beyond.

The delegates were struck by the inclusiveness of Scottish schools, and of enterprise education in particular.

"We visited Park School, and I have been talking to special education colleagues in teacher training in Norway about it," says Ivar Offerdal, assistant professor of the science of education at Sogn og Fjordane University College. "They now want to come over here - perhaps with students - and take a look at how you do enterprise education."

The special school visited by Kirsti Russamae, an English teacher and enterprise education co-ordinator at the Ida-Viru Enterprise Centre in Estonia, was celebrating the fact that it had just been awarded an Eco- Schools green flag.

"They were so proud," she says. "It gave me the idea that back in Estonia we could get children working on things that are important for the environment, rather than just lecture them about it."

Inclusiveness was in evidence well beyond the special schools, say the visitors - in primary and secondary schools, and in the colleges.

"Before I came here, my feeling was that enterprise education could be very effective in preventing social exclusion," says Ivan Diego, who works in a government agency tasked with implementing enterprise education in Spain's principality of Asturias. "But it was only a feeling.

"Yesterday I saw it with my own eyes. They took us to a unit at Kilmarnock College that works with challenging students. It became crystal clear to me: enterprise education promotes social inclusion."

One highlight of the conference for many of the delegates was learning the history of enterprise education in Scotland, and how it came to be integrated into the curriculum. In light of recent rumblings from our secondary sector, and demands from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association for Curriculum for Excellence to be delayed or scrapped, this view from abroad was particularly illuminating.

The curriculum and teaching styles in Estonia are very traditional, says Mariliis Randmer, student head of the youth parliament, who was part of a group that had been asked to think about what happens in their schools and what needs to change.

"I will be reporting back on what I've seen in Scotland," he says. "What we have is that teachers teach us and we learn everything for one test. But as soon as it's over, we forget it all. So we can't use that information in the future. That is not a good way. What we have seen in Scotland is children learning because they are interested. That is a much better way."

At one school visited by Estonian teacher Kirsti Russamae, the students had a wall covered with project displays, she says. "They also had those four capacities from your curriculum on the wall - confident individuals, successful learners, and so on. I really liked that. It is amazing. So simple. It tells students: `This is what we are all doing here.' Yes, you have to deliver a subject. But that is not the most important part of teaching."

Norway has a history of enterprise education at least as long as Scotland's, but it still has something to learn about pulling it together, says Ivar Offerdal, assistant professor of the science of education at Sogn og Fjordane University College. "That's why this is my fourth visit to Scotland. You have implemented all the ideas on enterprise education within the curriculum - with the four capacities as a frame and structure for it all. The politicians we brought over have been very impressed by the four capacities - how they are implemented, how you train teachers, how you report on them," he says. "We have similar things in our curriculum but not on the daily agenda. They haven't been given the same prominence.

"The curriculum is not only about knowledge in different subjects. It is also about attitudes, skills and your ability to reflect on what you have learned. I see progress in Scotland every time I come here."

Excellence through Enterprise international conference:


The Scottish Government has committed pound;66 million to Determined to Succeed over the current spending period (2008-11), with the local authority allocation of pound;19.2m per year within grant-aided expenditure being the only ring-fenced funding stream in the Education and Lifelong Learning portfolio.

Determined to Succeed's overall objective is to "fully embed enterprise in education within Curriculum for Excellence by the end of school session 2010-11".

Determined to Succeed: Policy Expectations for Local Authority Delivery (2008-2011) is available to download at dtslaexpectations.asp


Karin Nilsson - Director of education at the Swedish National Agency for Education, responsible for implementing national strategy for entrepreneurship in schools

"I am very impressed. I was interested to hear the history of enterprise education in Scotland. What came across was the huge commitment over many years, which confirmed my feeling that it will not be possible for the agency to implement the strategy on its own. In Scotland the ministries of education and of enterprise, the local authorities and the business partners all worked together. That is so important.

"The education system in Sweden is similar to yours, with local authorities having a great deal of autonomy. We had a major change from a very centralised system in the 1990s. We now have 6,000 schools in 290 self-governing municipalities. The state can guide and provide support money to these. But we cannot go in and tell them what to do.

"What I've seen . makes me optimistic that we can make our national strategy work in Sweden. But it is clear that it needs support from many directions."

Gjorgji Kusevski - Workforce development specialist at Usaid Primary Education Project in Macedonia

"Our education system is more traditional, more subject-oriented, so we would like to use your experience to make it cross-curricular. A very interesting part was how you form links between schools and businesses, and develop a curriculum that produces the skills employers would like to see.

"Business links often depend on one individual in a company. So what we've been hearing about how to create win-win situations that benefit the company as well as the school, so they will be motivated to continue, has been very useful .

"Some ideas we've been hearing will be easy to implement, others not so much. The most important element in both countries is the teachers - working with them to change attitudes.There is always the complaint that they are overloaded . It's the same, I think, with teachers everywhere. I used to be a teacher, so I understand. That will be the biggest thing - to change the attitudes of teachers.

"My first idea is that we should develop and support as many collaborative projects as possible. If you get people working together and talking to each other, they will all begin see the benefits."

Original paper headline: Cafe culture offers special flavour of Scottish enterprise

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