Time to take stock

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Schools need to get down to business now that enterprise education is on the curriculum. Martin Whittaker reports

A day at the London Stock Exchange was a worthwhile investment for careers adviser Ros Lucas and her school. Last summer she attended Sharing in Enterprise, a new training scheme for teachers run by the Stock Exchange and the Trident Trust, a work-experience co-ordinator.

"You think the Stock Exchange is going to be full of people shouting and screaming. But it is absolutely calm - everything is done on computers,"

she says.

It features speakers from the capital's Square Mile, who explain the role of the Exchange, global markets, trading, and the FTSE 100 share index.

Ms Lucas, a former business and IT teacher, now helps colleagues at East Barnet school in Hertfordshire to implement enterprise education, including bringing in speakers from industry and setting up competitions where students play the stock market.

She says programmes such as Sharing in Enterprise have paid dividends - mainly because her full-time non-teaching role allows her to follow it up.

Teachers in every English secondary will be following the same learning curve this year, because from this term each school must provide enterprise education for all key stage 4 students, giving them the equivalent of five days' activity.

The Government has earmarked pound;60 million to support this, and the official description of what schools should offer has enough upbeat business-speak to give Alan Sugar a headache.

Activity should focus on "enterprise capability supported by financial capability and economic and business understanding". Enterprise capability is described as "innovation, risk-management and risk-taking, a can-do attitude, the drive to make ideas happen".

But the Secondary Heads Association is concerned that many schools may be unprepared for this, particularly given the barrage of other policy changes hitting them this term, including the latest phase of workforce reform and self-evaluation.

SHA general secretary John Dunford said: "There are so many other priorities this term that introducing enterprise education is pretty low on the list.

"And there seems to be a lack of co-ordination between this, which is being driven by the Treasury, and all the other initiatives being driven by the Department for Education and Skills."

The Government is keen to foster an enterprise culture, giving students a better understanding of their future role and responsibility in the economic community.

It follows a review of enterprise and the economy in education by Sir Howard Davies, then chairman of the Financial Services Authority, prompted by Chancellor Gordon Brown. In response, two years ago the DfES set up 151 enterprise education pathfinder projects involving 400 schools.

Last year Ofsted carried out an evaluation a sample of the schools, finding examples of good practice in most of them. A common feature was a strong commitment by the head and other senior managers, as well as a clear vision of its potential for raising standards and preparing students for life.

Inspectors found there was no blueprint to develop the subject and that schools were adopting different curriculum models. Progress was hampered by the fact that only half of the schools had an explicit definition of enterprise education, said Ofsted.

Most saw the subject as the development of entrepreneurial skills or learning that involved links with businesses and the wider community.

Relatively few schools saw it as part of a coherent curriculum for vocational and work-related learning, linking with other aspects of the curriculum.

Few schools had good ways of evaluating students' enterprise learning, though some were emerging. Also, links to vocational qualifications were rare, and few students were able to use their experiences in assessed coursework.

Ofsted's findings led to a set of recommendations for schools (see below) to improve enterprise education. It also recommended that the DfES used the experience of the pathfinders to establish how schools could best use the extra resources.

SHA says that although the Government has set aside pound;60m a year, no one really knows how the money should be spent.

In a bulletin to members, it says details of what enterprise education should look like are unclear, though it appears the DfES is allowing schools scope to develop a programme that fits with their existing partnerships and activities. Unsurprisingly, schools already operating as specialist business and enterprise colleges came out of Ofsted's evaluation best, including Swanlea in Tower Hamlets, east London.

Simon Firth, assistant head responsible for delivery of business and enterprise, says the school tries to involve teachers from every department.

"The English department could be doing work on media entrepreneurs, or the maths department looking at international markets. One focus for this year is personal finance education at KS3," he says.

The school sent its teachers out into industry to find out for themselves.

Staff have been on one-day placements with organisations including Bank of America, law firm Clifford Chance and accounting giant KPMG.

But Mr Firth believes that while specialist schools like his are ahead of the game, others may be struggling.

"In performing arts schools, for example, they find it difficult to get their heads around the concept of enterprise. The fundamental problem is understanding what it means."

Enterprise week, November 14-20. For more information see www.starttalkingideas.org

Develop an enterprise culture

Ofsted recommends that schools should:

* develop enterprise learning as part of a coherent programme of vocational and work-related learning;

* Have a clear definition of enterprise learning;

* identify learning outcomes for students;

* recognise that enterprise learning has implications for teaching and learning styles;

* develop effective methods of assessing enterprise learning;

* ensure robust systems for monitoring development.

For further guidance, see www.teachernet.gov.ukteachingandlearning14to19ks4enterpriseeducation Warwick university's centre for education and industry has also developed an Excellence in Enterprise Education award to help schools to develop an "enterprise agenda" and to prepare for future inspection. www.warwick.ac.ukwieceienterprising.html

For further information on the Sharing in Enterprise scheme developed by the London Stock Exchange and Trident Trust, tel: Celia Glynn-Williams, 020 7014 1400

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