What about the business of learning?

24th January 1997 at 00:00
A culture of enterprise in Scottish schools? With an eye on increasing the Scottish business birthrate (and therefore jobs) Scottish Enterprise is currently beavering away at creating young self-starters. There is a flourishing amount of enterprise education around: 70 per cent of schools are now involved in developing entrepreneurial skills. From Enterprising Infants at one end of the scale initiative and teamwork for tinies to Graduate Enterprise at the other, the spectrum embraces the full range of Young Enterprise projects.

Sadly, enterprise remains a propagandising buzz-word for a few prominent Scots educationists. The Educational Institute of Scotland for example, still regards the concept as not quite PC. Far from being a discrete curriculum area, it should, they believe, be tucked away in modern studies of all places.

But schools get a lot of fun out of their business ventures, as visitors to December's Schools Enterprise Fair clearly saw. Craigmount High School in Edinburgh is one old hand on the business scene. This year the school celebrates 10 years of its successful art calendar. The 1997 version made Pounds 1,500 on launch night alone. One building society bought 1,000 Craigmount calenders for its customers: not bad at Pounds 4 each.

These are hard financial times (and would so continue under any alternative government). It is therefore not only the young who need to become entrepreneurial. Scotland has a handful of enterprising schools where the whole community have become partners in developing the potential of the huge resource which is their local school.

Projects are diverse in size and scope. One rural secondary with an enrichment fund has gained charitable status and aims to raise at least Pounds 100, 000 over five years. An inner city school has found partners in police and urban aid to achieve the astroturfing of its redundant concrete playground, thus adding to the school's facilities and creating a community asset which also earns.

A new town secondary has created an interactive visitor centre for design education with the help of industrial sponsors. A leafy suburban secondary uses its resource to teach English to Japanese, and Japanese to local businesspersons. Income is turned round to finance non-profit-making adult education classes.

Every school has unique assets. Creative asset management is the vital tool required to maximise these assets within the framework of devolved school management. In addition to buildings, facilities and equipment, each school has the individual skills and interests of teaching and non-teaching staff. It also has the potential for a wide variety of support networks from parents, community, local interest, business and other groups. Partnership makes possible access to local, national or international funding, to address identified priorities.

Creative asset management in line with the values and ethos of the school, and in support of the school's development plan, should surely be a top priority for boards and management teams. Such a move will involve an extended vision: the ability to see people of all ages and backgrounds as potential users of the school. It will involve greater flexibility: willingness to access the total resource of the school at any time on a 52-week basis.

It will involve efficient financial management: entrepreneurial activities which will provide maintenance, replacement or improvement of facilities. It will involve using the school as a resource to respond to the educational, leisure and recreational needs of the local community.

Adult entrepreneurial spirit should permeate the whole school community. (It will benefit the children too.) This is a timely challenge for school boards: perhaps the Scottish School Board Association could start the ball rolling with an enterprise forum in its newsletter, Grapevine: a regular information and ideas exchange?

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