A further entrenchment of enterprise education in the curriculum was announced yesterday (Thursday) amid growing evidence that it could become a vehicle for introducing significant changes in schools.
A pound;1 million "revolution" involving more than 2,000 disaffected third and fourth-year pupils was announced by the Scottish Executive with the clear intention that, assuming a satisfactory evaluation, it will be extended to all "educationally disengaged" pupils.
Courses, starting in August, will focus on business but will link to personal and social education to prepare pupils for life after school.
The fact that the announcement was made by the Executive jointly with the Hunter Foundation, which is bankrolled by the tycoon Tom Hunter, underlines the influence the foundation now wields. The Executive's overall pound;44 million Determined to Succeed initiative on enterprise education is partly funded by Mr Hunter.
The move follows the Prime Minister's recent Labour Party speech in which he signalled there should be an end to the leaving age of 16 in England and that all young people up to the age of 18 should be in education, employment or training.
Part of the the purpose of the latest initiative is that this so-called NEET group ("not in education, employment or training") should be targeted while they are still in school. It comprises almost one in five 16-19s in Scotland.
Meanwhile a conference in Glasgow last week heard calls for enterprise education to be used as an opportunity to introduce changes into teacher training and to deploy non-teachers to advance the programme in schools.
The initiative unveiled this week will be delivered by three voluntary organisations, Young Enterprise Scotland, the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust and the Prince's Trust for Scotland. It will build on existing work by the Prince's Trust, but with a stronger emphasis on enterprise through Young Enterprise Scotland.
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, denied that the initiative was "a sin bin for badly behaved pupils". It was "a valid alternative providing innovative challenges and helping to instil an enterprise culture," Mr Peacock said.
"This will give young people who feel their learning is irrelevant and are dissatisfied by the curriculum the opportunity to feel connected to their schools, fulfil their potential and maximise their opportunities.
"It is vital to re-engage disaffected young people in learning by providing a flexible curriculum that gives youngsters a route back into school."
The Executive has been accused by some of its own supporters, most recently in a high-profile attack by Susan Deacon, the former health minister, of concentrating on the punitive side of youth disaffection through policies such as the antisocial behaviour legislation. The enterprise initiative will be used to argue that preventative measures are also part of ministers' armoury.
Ewan Hunter, chief executive of the Hunter Foundation, underlined the importance of this when he said: "There is a cycle here that needs to be broken - often disengagement at school leads to unemployment and worse still."
Mr Hunter added: "We as a society simply cannot afford or allow human talent to be undervalued or misdirected. Enterprise education offers everyone a chance to shine in their own way."
Bill Hughes, who chairs both Prince's Trust organisations, said that the new initiative "builds on existing well respected and well established projects linking personal development and enterprise activity in a seamless model".
Mr Hughes, once the Tory administration's favourite businessman who inspired the creation of Scottish Enterprise, described the plan as "a not so quiet revolution for Scotland and another world first in enterprise in education".
Chris van der Kuyl, the computer games businessman who chairs Young Enterprise Scotland, hailed the programme as "joined-up thinking at its best from the Scottish Executive and the Hunter Foundation". It was about "efficiency, maximising impacts and giving many young lives fresh impetus".
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