Enterprise education has entered the Ofsted schedule as a subject to be inspected in all schools. But do you know exactly what it involves?

Craig Grewcock, Regional Director of the Centre for Education and Industry, charts the progress of enterprise education to date, before outlining support you can gain from the CEI to implement this new area of the curriculum in your own school context.

In recent years there has been increasing emphasis on enterprise education, the aim being to develop the so-called ‘can-do’ attitude of our young people.

Enterprise education is not new and many schools are already heavily involved in providing their students with activities such as industry days, industrial visits and enterprise teamwork. However, the recommendations of the Davies Review report (A Review of Education and Enterprise in the Economy) of 2002  led to a positive response from the Government, which has now committed substantial sums of money to encourage more educational enterprise activity in future years.

We have seen the creation of enterprise learning Pathfinder projects in schools in the pursuit of a more coherent approach to, and support for, enterprise learning. Most recently, the DfES has launched the Teachernet Enterprise education website and this provides a definition of enterprise education for schools to work with.

Teachernet definition

Enterprise education involves the development of:

Enterprise capability — the ability to handle uncertainty and respond positively to change, to create and implement new ideas and ways of doing things, to make reasonable risk/reward assessments and act upon them in one’s personal and working life. Enterprise capability can also be described as: innovation, creativity, risk-management, and a ‘can-do’ attitude and the drive to make ideas happen supported by: i) financial capability — the ability to manage one’s own finances and to become questioning and informed consumers of financial services

ii) business and economic understanding — the ability to understand the business context and make informed choices between alternative uses of scarce resources.

(see the teachernet website for more details)

Welcome though this definition is, many schools may still be uncertain about the breadth and depth of enterprise education required. Teachers are asking about the implications for teaching and about how they can ensure that enterprise learning is introduced appropriately as a quality learning experience for all. Teachers are often naturally cautious of committing themselves to a new initiative, especially if it appears similar to past themes.

Previous guise For this is not the first time that enterprise education has made an appearance and there are those for whom the last attempt to develop mini-enterprise in the classroom left something of a sour aftertaste. As early as 1988, the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) introduced an Enterprise and Education initiative that aimed to: Improve the relevance of education … improve skills … and above all introduce enterprising attitudes in the classroom. (Enterprise and education, DTI, 1988)

The assumptions were clear, namely that schools, teachers and students were not enterprising and needed the urgent help of industry to become so.

Subsequently, 140 advisers were appointed to develop work experience opportunities for students and industry placements for teachers. One of the major targets, to attract 50,000 teacher placements a year by 1990 was too ambitious. When the Teacher Placement Service was handed over to the Training and Enterprise Councils in 1991, only 16,346 teacher placements had taken place, despite the fact that 34,442 places had been identified. Reasons given for this underachievement included the: i) lack of funding for supply cover ii) lack of specialist supply cover

iii) reluctance of teachers and governors to disrupt pupils’ learning for this.

The service had failed to win over substantial numbers of the teaching profession, which was not surprising, given the difficulties that both education and business had in understanding each other’s priorities. There was a lack of clarity about the aims of the project and a failure to achieve the necessary buy-in from parents, students and teachers. As this new initiative is extended we can, and must, learn from these mistakes, not least to ensure that we are talking in terms of ‘enterprise education’ rather than ‘enterprise and education’.

It is now recognised that the need for enterprise education is, if anything, greater than it was in the 1980s, and that today schools are in a better position to respond.

Reviewing and evaluating enterprise education

The Centre for Education and Industry (CEI) has produced a set of support materials to help schools to prepare for future inspection of enterprise and work-related learning elements of the curriculum. The aim is to allow a school to analyse and quantify the quality of its enterprise activity, to identify areas needing further development and from there to plan, organise and deliver new enterprise activity.

For more details of this and the CEI Excellence in Enterprise Education award, visit the CEI website