Some teachers are sceptical about teaching business in primary schools. They think that it should wait for secondary schools, or even further education. After all, primary school is where we establish the basics – reading, writing, maths and a general understanding of the world.
My reply to such comments is this: teaching business is the teaching of all these things through a highly engaging theme.
Every aspect of our lives, our place in the world, is influenced by business. If primary school is where we lay the foundations of learning – shouldn’t that include a recognition of the role that business plays and how we might navigate it?
An ability to manage money, work in a team, communicate and sell yourself is extremely important in life. We also have an opportunity to ingrain ethical business practice in our pupils – bringing their learning to life, but in a positive way for the future.
So, how should we do it? Growing in popularity these days is project-based learning (PBL). Primary schools are very familiar with topic work, which verges on PBL anyway. But it is often done in afternoon sessions, while we spend the morning doing English and maths in isolation. Teaching all of these subjects through a common denominator such as business gives an overview of how everything in school is interlinked, just like in the world outside school.
So how do you use business as a theme in primary teaching? Here are some ideas .
Start small and grow
Look for opportunities to relate theory to real life. Bring in maths by asking the children to plan a holiday within a given budget. This takes in number skills with the four main operations, planning skills using timetables, and manipulating this information to create the best holiday possible within the budget. Could the class help you plan and book your next school trip using this experience? They would certainly be excited for it if they are included in the process.
What jobs do the children know? What skills are needed for those jobs and which skills do the children feel confident in already? Which skills need developing? You can use this information across the curriculum – to compile graphs, word collages, job advertisements. It’s a great way to link subjects and interests.
Step back and identify
Many topics are easily delivered with a business slant. The Romans, Greeks and Victorians can be related to enterprise: warmongery, industrialisation, education, and colonialism all stem from larger business needs. Similarly space, rainforests, and the Great Fire of London can all be connected to innovation, finance, marketing and business.
Get real businesses involved
Many businesses are eager to contribute and help inspire children. Why not invite past pupils into school to talk about their experience of education and how they got to where they are today? Organisations exist that take the headache out of this for you, too – Primary Futures and Founders4Schools are just two.
Dylan McCarthy is a primary school teacher in Birmingham. He is currently on a sabbatical to grow a business intervention for schools called Stepping Into Business (steppingintobusiness.org). For free teaching resources, see bit.ly/PrimaryBusiness