Scottish Education Awards - Cracking ideas win the day

23rd July 2010 at 01:00
A scheme to rescue Humpty Dumpty is among the activities that won an East Renfrewshire primary the enterprise and employability gong

What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a difficult question when you're only getting to grips with your times tables, and find it difficult to accept that "princess" or "Jedi knight" may be among more fanciful career options.

St Joseph's Primary in East Renfrewshire has hit upon an idea to open up the world of work: get people into the school throughout the year to explain exactly what they do in their jobs.

Recent visitors to the 347-pupil Busby school have included weatherman Peter Sloss, a dentist, a postmistress, a beautician, a Glasgow Science Centre press officer, the police, an IT manager, the fire service, a representative from the Malawi Partnership, an engineer and a financial adviser.

"We use every connection we have," says principal teacher Catherine Callaghan. Parents who let slip they have an interesting job can expect to appear in front of pupils sometime soon.

But the intention is to do more than shed light on day-to-day duties: visitors are asked to draw connections between what they do and what the pupils are doing in school.

"We are preparing the children for the world of work and they need to know how they can apply the skills they have developed in class to real-life contexts," explained the school in its entry for the Scottish Education Awards, which led to the primary and early years prize for Enterprise and Employability Across Learning.

"We are constantly reminding the pupils why they are learning things and that they are not just in school for fun: we are preparing them for the future," Mrs Callaghan says.

Pupils threw themselves into National Enterprise Month, with each class set an intriguing challenge. P2 pondered how to protect Humpty Dumpty as he fell from his wall. Eggs were launched in the air with a series of protective devices: soft fabric wrapping kept Humpty intact; a parachute, the class learnt as egg yolk oozed over fragments of shell, was less easy to perfect.

P3, meanwhile, was designing ecological vehicles - solar power and happiness were hypothetical fuels - and P7 marketed a free gift for a fruit drink.

"No matter what they're learning, we go back to the core skills", says Mrs Callaghan. Pupils must be prepared for a fast-changing and unpredictable world of work.

Mrs Callaghan used to be an enterprise development officer, and saw many schools where children were "scared to make a mistake". But at St Joseph's, enterprise is not only part of the curriculum, but also a state of mind.

When P2 had a fairytale ball, they advertised their event, decorated the hall and sorted out catering. "I step back and the children run the show," says Mrs Callaghan. "We don't have children who say, `I can't do that.' We have children who have a go, take a risk."

The school organised "Have a Go Fridays" throughout Enterprise Month, when all staff, from janitor to headteacher, took an activity, whether jewellery-making, Italian or golf.

Some were nervous at stepping out of their comfort zone, but Mrs Callaghan recalls they did not have to look far for an inspiring example: "The attitude of the kids is rubbing off on staff."


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