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In this guest blog, Tom Ravenscroft describes how the organisation he founded, Enabling Enterprise, is working hard to take enterprise education to the next level. Click here to find out more about their activities. Follow Enabling Enterprise on Twitter: @enablingent

In this guest blog, Tom Ravenscroft describes how the organisation he founded, Enabling Enterprise, is working hard to take enterprise education to the next level. Click here to find out more about their activities. Follow Enabling Enterprise on Twitter: @enablingent


The challenge

Enterprise education is not new or exciting. It appears less fashionable than five years ago, but the need for it is greater than ever before.

My personal engagement with enterprise education began as a new secondary school teacher in Hackney, East London in 2007. With my colleagues, I was deeply worried by the lack of basic skills demonstrated by many of our students – students who, at the age of 15 or 16, were unable to work in pairs, organise themselves to complete work, or speak in front of their peers in class. Coupled with their limited experience of the working world, it felt an abdication of responsibility to send them out into the real world so ill-equipped.

And the challenge certainly wasn’t just in my classroom: at the beginning of 2013, youth unemployment grew to over 20%, whilst the chorus of business concern about the employability of our school leavers only grows.

So, what’s gone wrong?

I didn’t mean to leave teaching to run a social enterprise. And a cursory glance might suggest that this is already a crowded field – why not just take up some of what is already out there?

I set up Enabling Enterprise in 2009 because I felt that there was a gap: for bringing enterprise education into the classroom, and side-stepping the false dichotomy between teaching knowledge and teaching skills.

There are some brilliant organisations out there, driven by the belief that enterprise education can and should contribute a vital element to children’s education. But one of the challenges is that schools sometimes acquire enterprise education programmes as they would collect badges – with variety being the most important thing.

And there is a danger of mistaking what is most glamorous for what is most effective.

An approach

At Enabling Enterprise we have been grappling with exactly these three problems over the last four years: How can enterprise become a real core part of the curriculum? How do we ensure that we’re not just another “badge” for schools? How do we make the development of enterprise skills as rigorous as acquiring knowledge?

Enterprise in the classroom:

We believe that effective teaching and learning, and the broader development of students’ skills, world experiences and aspirations go hand in hand.

To make this a reality, we partner with 25 top businesses including PwC, IBM and UBS to create year-long courses that teachers can deliver in their own classrooms, in the form of “lesson-time projects”. These projects focus on “learning by doing” – developing English skills through writing an anthology, learning Maths through a construction challenge, or learning about IT by creating their own web-based start-up.

Outside of the classroom, students have the opportunity to visit a business partner each term, meeting employees and linking their projects to the “real world”.

The model has been designed to be highly scalable by mobilising and equipping teachers to embed practical learning and skills development rather than trying to lead on all the delivery work ourselves. The result is that 4 years since our inception, we are working with 19,000 students across 130 schools.

Starting early

The second challenge, is that to move beyond just being a “badge” we need to have a coherent and systematic approach to encouraging enterprise from a young age.

There is a natural tendency to bundle up “enterprise” with “employability”, CVs and job applications. But there is growing evidence that by working from the age of 6, students develop the resilience and social skills that provide the foundation to their future success, twelve years later.

So we design programmes that systematically embed enterprise projects, complemented by business trips and challenge days, for students from Year 1 through to Year 13. At the beginning, the focus is on basic social skills and resilience. As they progress, the projects become more ambitious – fundraising, designing new toys, or running a café. By secondary school, students work on longer-term, structured projects like setting up a small business or a social enterprise by the sixth form.

Measuring the impact

Finally, to make it matter, you have to measure it: We have put a lot of energy into creating a framework for assessing progress towards our mission that is as robust an assessment as any other learning. To do this, we have worked with employers including Freshfields and UBS to identify what students need by way of skills and experiences at the point they leave school. This highlighted eight skill areas, including teamwork, resilience, presentation, leadership and personal organisation.

For each of these areas we then created a system of levelling that meant we could work backwards from this end goal, so that we can see quantitative progress made at each age. For example, by the end of a year on our programme we would want to see that an 18 year-old can set ambitious targets and understand the key milestones towards achieving them, whilst for an 11 year-old, we would just want them to be able to set targets with help from their teacher.

We use a combination of student self-assessment and teacher validation to level students at the beginning and end of the year, and in so doing are able to check that the projects are helping our participants progress towards successful futures.

And looking forward…

The journey for Enabling Enterprise is only beginning. While we work with about 19,000 students across 130 schools today, that pales against the challenging backdrop that millions of young people face.

But all organisations with an interest in the enterprise education of children and young people can achieve even more. We need to remember to make enterprise a key part of the curriculum, to start young and keep going, and to assess our progress rigorously and honestly.


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