Teamwork eases enterprise load

21st May 2004 at 01:00
East Ayrshire's CPD programme for enterprise is producing results without compromising the curriculum, as Douglas Blane discovers

Until recently there was a paradox at the heart of enterprise in education, according to John Mulgrew, East Ayrshire's executive director of education and social services. "It's all about encouraging people to become confident and self-reliant," he says, "but professional development for teachers used to be organised and run from the centre."

The new Determined to Succeed structure, in which Scottish Executive funding is allocated to education authorities, which then buy in CPD courses to suit local needs, is more appropriate and more in harmony with the spirit of enterprise. "I firmly believe in devolving decisions and empowering people," says Mr Mulgrew.

East Ayrshire is using the Executive funding to make 10 new appointments: one full-time enterprise co-ordinator and a 0.5 equivalent for each of its nine cluster groups. These posts are based on the enterprise education support officer model devised and deployed by the Schools Enterprise Programme, the ground-breaking national initiative to train 5-14 teachers that ends this summer.

The curriculum is bursting at the seams, say teachers in primary and secondary schools. But enterprise in general and the Schools Enterprise Programme in particular has made greater progress in the former than the latter, where subject specific timetables leave little scope for fitting in enterprise.

Kilmarnock's Grange Academy has devised a practical strategy for doing so.

But before explaining this, headteacher Fred Wildridge introduces some of the school's enterprising players in a freshly painted room devoted to enterprise and furnished like a business boardroom.

"You'll be wanting a coffee after your journey," invites S6 student Tajinder Khunkhun sympathetically. "Would you like to buy one?"

"She's kidding," assures Mr Wildridge with a smile.

But Tajinder and her fellow students, right down to the first years, have clearly been launching and running all sorts of enterprising activities, from making Hallowe'en bags, chocolate bunnies, security badges, a lovely calendar of Italian paintings and a school familiarisation video for new pupils, to running a litter campaign, an import-export business and putting on an acclaimed performance of Les Miserables.

"I never thought I'd be able to give presentations. I was quite shy," says Tajinder. "But it doesn't bother me now."

"We started enterprise in the third year," says classmate Cleo Cumisky, "and you soon learned to be mature and treat it seriously.

"It took the boys longer, but even they got there in the end."

Carol Nisbet, an enterprise education officer with Careers Scotland, believes putting secondary teachers through that same active learning process is the key to engaging sceptical specialists.

"You tell them they are the students and they're going to experience the same activities and feelings as the children," she says.

"A lot of teachers surprise themselves and end up very proud of what they achieve working in a team. They can then use that experience to identify with and motivate their pupils."

There is another important feature of professional development at Grange Academy: strength in numbers. Depute headteacher Margaret Harper, who is working with HM Inspectorate of Education on enterprise quality indicators for school self-evaluation, says: "CPD sessions often have just one or two teachers from many different schools. At Grange Academy, we organise twilight sessions with dozens of our own teachers. That has huge benefits.

"They are learning. They're appreciating what the youngsters have to do and they are starting to appreciate each other. People from maths, art, languages, home economics, science - who rarely see each other - are working together as a group. So they start making suggestions and there is then much more chance of ideas being carried forward because the support mechanism is in place."

Mr Wildridge is convinced that twilight CPD sessions in school are the way to make sure teachers of all subjects engage with enterprise. "We recently began two enterprise lessons a week in S1 and S2, so it's now a timetabled subject for all kids right through the school," he says. "But that's an interim measure.

"Think of the curriculum as a bookcase. It used to contain books on maths, English, history, geography. Since then a few, like Latin, have been removed but a lot more added: modern studies, business education, computing. If we put another book called enterprise on the shelves, the bookcase might fall over. Instead we should be taking down the maths book or the geography book and finding a chapter on enterprise.

"Once enough teachers are confident with enterprise, that's what I'm going to do, ask every teacher in every department to find opportunities for enterprise in their own subject."

The process of devolving and empowering espoused by Mr Mulgrew - from the Executive to the local authority, the school management, the department - does not end with the individual teacher. There is one more step.

"People talk about enterprise education as a means to wealth creation and improving the economy," says Mr Mulgrew. "But that is not my main concern.

"I want to make sure that our youngsters leave school capable and confident, with a strong belief in their own abilities. If we do that the economy will be fine."

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