What is too young in the world of enterprise?

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Our Education Associate Leah Dowty reflects on her experience of primary school teaching, and the role of enterprise:
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People often assume that enterprise learning is best suited to secondary school students learning about the world of business, their personal finances and developing skills that they only need because soon the safety net of the school environment is to be removed. A short time after the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) criticised the education system for failing to produce ‘rounded and grounded’ school leavers, should we be thinking about how to develop well rounded individuals before they even reach secondary education?

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If we define enterprise in the classroom as project based learning suddenly primary school specialists recognise this approach as one that has been celebrated by teachers for the last 40 years. Children enjoy taking ownership of meaningful projects that have a real outcome and allow them to learn and develop skills along the way.

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As a Hackney primary school teacher, I enjoyed immensely the journey that I could take my class on through real-life projects. By turning our Year 3 classroom into a ‘chocolate museum’ suddenly the skills that they needed to run these projects were high on the children’s own agenda (and not just mine!) They soon realised the importance of market research, writing clear instructions, understanding maps and speaking clearly as they led people on tours around the museum. By turning the table and putting the children in charge, learning became irresistible; one boy who had missed a day of the project asked me on his return to school if he could stay behind at the end of the day to cover what he had missed! And through interviewing professionals, chocolatiers and curators, my class developed their understanding of the world and learnt a little more about the jobs people do in the big city around them.

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So can you be too young to run your own enterprise project? I think not. At Enabling Enterprise we are currently running projects in schools across London and Birmingham with Years 2 and 3, supporting the children to organise and run their own fundraising fairs or cafes. We are soon to be developing projects for Year 1 children to run their own in-school postal service or gallery in order to develop their communication and problem solving skills, as well as building resilience.

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By developing these transferable skills at a young age we hope to help schools avoid the ‘exam factory’ trap that the CBI warned of whilst getting the children involved excited about the learning that is taking place in their school. You can never be too young for enterprise.

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