Can-do kids hit Celtic Park

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Monday sees the start of enterprise week, across the UK. reports on the facts behind the pitch

For three days, 6,000 S2 pupils will gather in Celtic Park. But the goal they will be aiming for next week will be to find out more about manufacturing, hopefully to extend their career horizons while allowing the sector to improve its image among young people.

This is just one of the many activities being laid on to drive forward the enterprise agenda in schools and colleges throughout Britain. Other events will be more douce: the launch of the Scottish Qualifications Authority's new progression award in enterprise and employability in partnership with Careers Scotland, for example.

But does Scotland need a reminder like enterprise week? The Determined to Succeed policy is right at the top of the ministerial agenda, backed by a core investment of pound;40 million from the Scottish Executive and a further pound;2 million each from the Executive and the Hunter Foundation to pilot innovative programmes (the investment in England, by contrast, is only Pounds 75 million over three years).

In addition, there cannot be many schools in Scotland that have not had an enterprising experience, although whether all pupils in these schools have had one is another matter and there are question marks over the enterprising nature of schools themselves.

HMI is now firmly presiding over enterprise development and has announced a major inspection of the initiative in 2006-07. And it is embedded in the How Good Is Our School? self-evaluation system, with a special launch across Scotland last month.

But the inspectorate knows enough already to acknowledge that "the full significance of enterprise as part of every young person's educational experience has yet to be fully realised", as Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector, has put it. There is often patchy provision, even in schools with a strong record of enterprise in education. "Few measure up to the idea of a broad entitlement," Mr Donaldson says.

In Scotland, the drive to move things forward has largely been felt in primary schools during the three years of the Schools Enterprise Programme for 5-14s. More than 11,000 staff - including almost half of Scotland's primary teachers - have been trained to deliver enterprise in education under the SEP. Some 233,000 pupils have been involved in more than 5,000 discrete projects.

The penetration of enterprise north and south of the border has been similar - 28 per cent of primary pupils and 27 per cent of S1-S2 pupils have taken part in Scotland, compared to 30 per cent of young people in England who are said to have had experience of enterprise at any point in their school careers.

An evaluation of the SEP by Warwick University found that the pupils showed "positive motivation and increased confidence". But the study also found that few schools were able to adopt a whole-school approach beyond the teachers who were specially trained. "This seemed to be somewhat problematic in many schools," its report stated.

The advantages of enterprise in schools will undoubtedly be talked up during next week's series of events, the centrepiece of which will be a "global enterprise challenge" involving 12 teams of 2,000 students from 30 countries, launched by Michael Foal, the British-born US astronaut and commander of the international space station.

Which emphasis on enterprise education will be talked up remains to be seen. The drive south of the border has very much been championed by the Chancellor, which suggests a straight economic imperative. The fact that Gordon Brown asked Howard Davies, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, to chair a review of "enterprise and the economy in education" will do little to convince sceptics that enterprise education is other than a thinly disguised front to sell the merits of business to pupils.

In Scotland, the responsibility rests with Jim Wallace, Enterprise Minister, which may give rise to the same suspicions. But Mr Wallace is also the Minister for Lifelong Learning, so there is a logic.

The official rhetoric is also markedly different in Scotland. The Determined to Succeed website states clearly that "enterprise in Scotland is not just about producing the business people and entrepreneurs of tomorrow; it's about giving individuals belief in their own abilities and the skills needed to succeed in whatever they choose".

Even the entrepreneurs involved, such as Tom Hunter, are adamant that the initiative is about encouraging self-belief, not creating clones of themselves.

Contrast that with the view from the Department for Education and Skills in London that there is a need "to strengthen links between the education system and business, as an important step in building a more enterprising society".

Gordon McVie, enterprise and education manager of Careers Scotland, who has been heavily involved in the global enterprise challenge, suggests that "there are pockets of excellence in enterprise education everywhere" but believes that Scotland is ahead of the game.

"Other countries have different bits, but we have the whole portfolio. We have 'P1 to plc', which dates from 1995 and was just an aspiration before.

We now have quality indicators for enterprise education - a powerful lever, given the involvement of HMI."

Scotland has the infrastructure in place to develop "connectivity and progression" in enterprise education which is often lacking elsewhere, Mr McVie says.

He adds: "Focusing on starting up businesses is starting at the wrong end.

If we get enterprising young people with can-do attitudes, that will benefit enterprise, whether it's in running their own business, in someone else's business or in the public sector."

Expect that to be one of next week's main messages - in Scotland at least.

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