The Isle of Sheppey Academy in Kent opened last year, specialising in business, enterprise and sport. It is organised into five smaller schools, each containing about 500 pupils aged 11-19. The school was keen to promote enterprise in the local community by making business and ICT programmes available to local residents. It was also looking at ways to offer pupils as many enterprise activities and opportunities as possible, tied to work-related learning programmes. All pupils study specially designed business-related units in their first three years at the school, which lead to a GCSE equivalent qualification.
The school launched a community enterprise project called Pay it Forward, inspired by the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The book (later turned into a film) promoted the idea of doing a good deed for someone, so they would do a favour for someone else and so on.
As part of the project, the academy opened its own high street shop, where pupils offered their work to help the community on particular projects. The shop was set up for six weeks in partnership with a local charity, Big Fish, which ran it in the evenings and at weekends. Each day, about 15 pupils would work in the shop on various projects.
ICT A-level students designed and project managed the new Isle of Sheppey website, which included educational resources and a local business and community directory. Their work on this helped them pass a unit of their OCR course.
Business studies students taught ICT skills to local community members, showing them how to use the internet, send and receive emails and use word-processing tools.
Students studying hair and beauty offered residents treatments such as manicures. And food and technology students worked in the shop promoting healthy eating by displaying samples of what a healthy packed lunch should contain.
Pupils were also able to hire spaces within the shop to sell their business products. Items they sold included Christmas cards, specially designed footballs, music CDs, handmade cakes and hand-painted paperweights.
Tips from the scheme
- Make sure the school leadership team is fully committed to the project, because they will play a significant role in promoting the enterprise scheme.
- Ensure you have lots of partnership in the community and that people have bought into the idea.
- Think about what the best conditions will be to boost enterprise and entrepreneurial activity among young people.
Evidence that it works?
Over the six-week period, 820 customers from the local community visited the shop.
To date, 64 local businesses have signed up to the new website (www.sheppeybusiness.co.uk). Pensioners who attended the pupils' ICT courses gave positive feedback, including Kirsty, 88, who said: "I just wanted to learn how to use my laptop and the students have helped me so much."
The academy received publicity from the press, featuring on the front page of local newspapers, on BBC Radio Kent, and in a special news report on the BBC. Adam Newman Turner, an education consultant for the Institute of Community Cohesion, said: "I believe this project to be groundbreaking for community cohesion."
Approach: Opening a shop in the high street as an enterprise project
Started: November 2010
Leader: Caron Kerr, director of specialism, vocational education and community
Name: Isle of Sheppey Academy
Number of pupils: 2,136
Age range: 11-19
Intake: High proportion of pupils on free school meals. The total number of pupils with special educational needs or disabilities is double the national average
Ofsted overall rating: Yet to have a full inspection.