Aspiring better

Posted in Blog by EE Team with No Comments

Jul2015 28

Education Associate Delphine Greene reflects on the role of aspirations for our young people and whether we are missing point when we just worry about the goal.

Aspirations, goals, targets, desires, wants or wishes. Whatever you choose to call them, deep down we all have them; no matter how different they may be.

The word ‘aspiration’ itself has been a buzz word in the current Labour leadership election. When Andy Burnham spoke of aspiration as he launched his leadership bid, he said the party’s challenge was to rediscover the beating heart of Labour, “and that is about the aspirations of everyone,… giving every single person the dream of a better life, about helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow”.

Why are they important?

As adults we may set ourselves goals in order to lead more fulfilling lives and enjoy the road which leads to successful achievements. If we are not aspiring towards anything then we may lack direction and feel unsatisfied with the way our lives are going. Interestingly, the journey is often more rewarding than the destination.

At school though, these goals are sometimes externally foisted: children are continuously exposed to target setting and pushed to reach those expectations academically. The challenge is to avoid unnecessary pressure on pupils lest it actually reduces motivation or undermines confidence. There is a very different power in goals that the students set themselves.

Raising aspirations through Enabling Enterprise

Enabling Enterprise cares about aspirations too. Indeed, our work is focused on ensuring that all students are equipped with the enterprise skills, experiences of work and aspirations to succeed.

We use student-led projects where they set targets to work towards themselves while helping them feel accomplished in knowing that their team work and problem solving have led to the final outcome. However, it is the business trips especially which prove to be the most inspiring for the young people who visit. Visits to organisations including law firms, construction and retail companies leave Enabling Enterprise pupils with an insight into a business environment, information about possible future careers and most importantly aspirations for what could be.

Aspirations play a crucial role for young people from an early age as such goals potentially affect the direction their lives will go on to take. In order to succeed in terms of education and employment, young people need aims to guide choices through the educational and career routes which are right for them.

Is this enough? – Aspiration in the wider context

A 2013 publication by Loic Menzies, founder of LKMco (an Education and Youth Development foundation) argues that policy makers and schools in England place a vast amount of emphasis on ‘raising aspirations’ amongst disadvantaged youth. However, Menzies highlights that this is based on the false assumption that aspirations among this group are low. The challenge faced by these children is not necessarily for their aspirations to be ‘raised’ but for them to be effectively ‘reached’.

At Enabling Enterprise we channel the notion of ‘aspiring’ through the core enterprise skill of “Aiming High”. Menzies strongly suggests disadvantaged parents and their social networks can lack the experience and knowledge in order to help their children. Engaging parents to help them understand what their children’s aspirations involve as well as what will help achieve them is likely to be the most effective way of ensuring aspirations are reached.

If we are to support today’s generation towards raising and reaching their goals we are also responsible for helping them become aware of their options so they can go on to make informed choices. But knowledge of options alone is not enough – for us, aiming high is not just about dreaming but about setting realistic plans to actually achieve a tangible goal.

Staying Positive

That’s why our enterprise skill of ‘aiming high’ goes in hand with a second one – ’staying positive’. Resilience is as important as information, and must complement a realistic plan. Together these three elements have the potential to make a real difference.

If you’d like to find out more or get involved, just contact us.

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