Enterprise finds a place in Japanese peace garden

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Teachers at St Columba's High in Gourock believe they are meeting the four capacities outlined in A Curriculum for Excellence through their enterprise and citizenship work.

Enterprise projects apart, there has been a focus on teachers developing their methodology to make sure that active learning, challenge and enjoyment are features of all classes.

The two largest departments, English and maths, have also been auditing their practice against the four capacities of A Curriculum for Excellence to allow staff to evaluate the extent to which they are already meeting the criteria of educating pupils to become "successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors".

The aim is to make every lesson an enterprising one, with the Determined to Succeed ethos permeating everything. To do this, teachers work with the checklist that comes with the "enterprising classroom" toolkit provided by the education authority.

In addition, formative assessment is being built into every lesson. The hope is that the evaluation of the English and maths departments' audit exercise will provide a model for other subjects.

Pupils are engaged in a number of enterprise activities but Elizabeth Doherty, the headteacher, picks two out in particular for the way they have engaged and motivated senior pupils who were in serious danger of joining the NEET group when they leave school - not in education, employment or training.

One is the Japanese peace garden project, which has involved S5 pupils in turning a derelict piece of land within the school grounds into an area of rest and tranquillity for the school and the local community.

Pupils have used ICT skills to design and research the garden so that one area flows into the next, constructed 15ft high Shinto gates, consulted the local community using their presentation skills and built a scale model of the garden.

They received support from the Prince's Trust to level out the slabs so that young children riding bicycles won't be thrown off by an uneven surface and linked up with a pre-five centre which is housed within the secondary school.

"I am not exaggerating when I say their lives have been turned round from being poorly motivated and disengaged to becoming highly motivated and highly competent," Mrs Doherty said.

"Another excellent spin-off is that they have engaged other younger pupils who are at risk of becoming disengaged and disenchanted. This is still at an early stage, but it is an indication of the attitudes of the older pupils."

Another group of S5 and S6 pupils have formed the "Ace" catering company, which they are running as a profit-making business to cater for meetings in the school and the wider learning community.

The pupils have been trained by a qualified chef and have undertaken the necessary health and safety and hygiene courses. Commissions have varied from providing scones and home-made cakes for a headteacher's meeting with five school visitors to putting on a buffet for 200 people.

Other enterprises include the "Papillon" young enterprise company, which provides various services including running discos for younger pupils, and a recycling project for paper, plastics and cans within the school.

The main impact of these projects has been on pupils' self-esteem and confidence, the school believes. This is shown in the fact that pupils who could have left at Christmas or last summer are staying on until the end of S5, with some even planning to do a sixth year at the school.

"In the process of carrying out their projects, they have also been successful learners," Mrs Doherty said.

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