Enterprise boldly grows

5th December 2003 at 00:00
David Henderson reports from the educational researchers' annual conference in Perth

Teachers well versed in setting up mini-businesses with their primary classes are ditching the money-making approach to enterprise. They are now switching their focus to developing a "can do" outlook among their pupils, turning their attention to community and environmental projects.

Many teachers remain uncomfortable with encouraging money-making activities and prefer the emphasis on creating social entrepreneurs, according to initial evidence from a Strathclyde University study in 26 primaries and two secondaries.

Researchers Ross Deuchar and Moira Connor say that schools are looking to develop the self-confidence of pupils and adapting the Scottish Executive enterprise initiative - Determined to Succeed - to their own ends.

Ministers are ploughing in pound;42 million to implement what Jack McConnell, the First Minister, labelled his "flagship policy".

Some schools have taken a minimalist approach and confined enterprise to upper primary and to business projects. Others have involved pupils in running the school and taking wider decisions.

Pupils say that anyone can be enterprising and that you do not have to be "a thrusting entrepreneur", as one put it.

One pupil named soccer's David Beckham as his enterprise icon. "He's got his own brand of clothes, he entertains the crowd, he comes up with good hairdos. He had a dream and wanted to go for it."

Another advocated the singer Eminem. "He was voted one of the best rappers in the world. Sometimes he tells his life story in the songs and he just says what he thinks."

Another was more homely. "My mum. She makes anything she is involved in better. She makes people believe in themselves."

But pupils had mixed views about being enterprising. One put it forcefully:

"You need to be able to get the person to co-operate . . . to be friendly, and then you lull them into a false sense of security and then hit them with the double-glazing bit."

The researchers have discovered all kinds of enterprising activities in primaries but say that they are largely confined to after-school clubs in secondary where pupils have to opt in. Some secondary pupils say they have had no experience of enterprise.

Some teachers thought they were enterprising in their classes in secondary but had no chance to join in cross-curricular activities.

In primary, teachers and heads shared different views about enterprise. One said it was about realising how a company starts and how a product can be marketed and sold; another said it was a way to make money; and a third said: "It's something that the children decide to do and it comes from their ideas."

Asked to come up with qualities for enterprising pupils, the teachers said that pupils should be able to have a go and take risks or that someone had to have independent thoughts.

Others said it was the ability to come up with ideas, be responsible, innovative, enthusiastic and committed.

The researchers say there are often more enterprising activities in schools than teachers give themselves credit for and that they enjoy expanding their approaches to all aspects of the curriculum. Schools are gaining in confidence.

One headteacher said: "It's a way of thinking rather than organisation."

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