Screen tested;Subject of the Week;Business links;Scotland

5th February 1999 at 00:00
Making a video of the class nativity or selling baseball caps: enterprise education is thriving in Scottish primaries and special schools. Raymond Ross reports

Enterprise education gets 'em young:primary 2 classmates at Edinburgh's Juniper Green Primary made about pound;650 last year after they decided to video the their nativity to sell to parents. At least that was the original idea; they expanded it to include videos of the nursery nativity and photos of primary 1 and 3 pupils receiving presents from Santa. They also wrote the script for what became known as the "Busy Bee project".

"It was the developing sense of ownership that really got them excited," says the school's assistant head Valerie Bierman.

Thirty-two pupils, including one with special needs, were involved. They divided into teams covering advertising, sales, market research, finance, production and resources; each selected its own head of department.

The Bank of Scotland donated pound;40; the parent-teacher association, pound;25. The pupils themselves decided the profits should be donated to Currie High's sports hall appeal in recognition of help received from senior media studies pupils at the school - and because they recognised a new sports hall would eventually benefit them too.

Financial profit and enlightened self-interest are evident but Karen Noble, the primary 2 teacher, says there was educational profit as well. "It was excellent for communication and discussion work, including group work and team building.

"In fact, it was of tremendous benefit to the less academically able pupils. All the teams were mixed ability and they chose mixed ability heads of department.

"This introduced ideas of democracy and co-operation, developing life-learning skills, self-esteem, self and peer assessment, and all the other soft skills which come from role-playing."

But there was more: the young pupils covered maths "in an interesting way" when they had to deal with large figures by collating market research and determining sales and profit. Language work included writing the dialogue for the nativity, and functional English for business letters as well as advertising slogans and video pack information.

Speaking abilities were reinforced through telephone practice and public speaking. Art and design were central to the project, as was the development of IT skills in both design and letter writing.

A year on and the pupils still remember their experiences such as "getting messy with posters" and "seeing all the money in the bank safe". Some have held on to their company badges.

"They did learn about the bare bones of business in a real way and I believe that if the context in which they learn is real, then they'll learn more," says Ms Noble.

The business plan for the project was "real" enough - and impressive enough - to be used as a model at a Jordanhill seminar on enterprise education later in the year.

The Busy Bees were delighted; so delighted, in fact, that they asked Jordanhill for a donation in recognition of the fact that it was their hard work which was being exploited.

They received their donation. Now, that's enterprising.

Enterprise education is also high on the agenda at Kingspark Special School in Dundee. But it's not about producing the Richard Bransons of this world, says assistant head Lynne Martin.

"In a school like ours it's very much a community approach, about showing that each individual is important and that what they have to offer is valuable."

Kingspark caters for almost 200 pupils, aged five to 18, and Mrs Martin has responsibility for the special unit where the pupils have profound learning difficulties.

Last session the special unit pupils produced 400 tea towels using butterfly and leaf motifs, making 50p on each. But monetary gain was the least of the profits, believes Mrs Martin. "A lot of our children can't function independently and you therefore have to interpret 'enterprise education' in the widest sense, the perspective that says everyone has a contribution to make and everyone has a right to be valued.

"It's about motivation and self-esteem, encouraging the children to overcome the risk factor so that even if they don't all succeed, they still know not to give up trying."

Last session, secondary teacher Beverley Duncan supervised 15 S4 pupils who set up a company called "Tophats" to buy and sell 150 baseball caps. They had to set up administrative and marketing teams, visit businesses and contact the bank (the local Bank of Scotland not only gave the pupils the normal mini-enterprise start-up grant, they also bought shares in the company).

"We decided that, if it was worth doing, it had to be done properly," says Mrs Duncan. "It was all the pupils' own work, even down to running the board meetings. They did better than we thought they would - so we learned as well, and that's always important.

"But the main benefit was confidence. The pupils felt they had a real contribution to make and they felt others were genuinely interested in them. It aided decision-making, team building and co-operation, number work, social skills, computer skills, typing and language development."

The caps were sold to staff, parents and friends and the profits were donated to a cystic fibrosis charity. "They felt that as the school received a lot from charity they should give to charity in return," says Mrs Duncan.

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