Getting down to brass tacks;Subject of the Week;Business links;Scotland

5th February 1999 at 00:00
Neil Munro finds a Scottish secondary where staff are always looking for ways to support an enterprise culture

There's a long tradition of links with industry at the 1,200-pupil Greenwood Academy in Irvine: one company, SmithKline Beecham, even has a permanent representative on the school board.

Greenwood regards its pupils' work with two local special schools and a home for the elderly to be as much part of the enterprise culture as anything else. Alex Cowie, assistant head, says: "Work is a voluntary activity, as well as a financial activity. It also supports youngsters who have previously not experienced much success in their lives."

Phil Galbraith, the headteacher, recalls his introduction - "in the days of deepest Thatcherdom" - to the potential of enterprise education at a talk given by Frank Pignatelli, then Strathclyde's director of education. He came away with his initial foreboding replaced by appreciation of the potential.

Some years on, Greenwood has now established structured pathways within the formal curriculum to support an enterprise culture. In addition to the usual activities such as Young Enterprise and Achievers International, the school looks for "unexpected opportunities" such as class-based projects which involve enterprise for first and second-year classes.

All third and fourth-year pupils are offered a six-week enterprise education course as part of a "life skills" programme and there are optional certificated courses in the fifth and sixth years.

Subject teachers are given a 15-point checklist which asks them to bear in mind whether there are points in the course "where relevance to the world of work, to higher education, to social issues and to other school courses can be developed".

Enterprise has even reached the school's brass band - Brian Keachie, its musical director, raises funds by running a snack-vending machine in the school.

Perhaps the most valuable impact of Greenwood's enterprise culture emerges in the unlikely shape of its positive discipline policy. This has produced reams of paper - there were 5,000 commendations in the first year against 2,000 referrals for bad behaviour. A happy ratio, but the school soon realised this paper-mountain could not keep growing.

So, in Mr Galbraith's words, they "cut a deal" with a company for a computerised system. The school got a preferential rate "substantially below" the market price of pound;50,000. Pupils now have their rewards recorded at the press of a button.

"We have increased the number of plaudits and reduced the workload on staff," says Mr Galbraith.

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