How to measure success?

Posted in Blog by EE Team with 1 Comment

Dec2012 20



Education Associate Alexi Makris looks at the recently published CBI report on the UK education system and what its recommendations imply for students, schools and business.

Little is more controversial, or draws a wider range of views, than education.
Education underpins family life, employment statistics, child poverty, social mobility, politics, scientific endeavour and more. While the economy in the UK struggles, state education is seen as the remedy– a tonic capable of boosting employment, economic growth, innovation in business and GDP.

The CBI, the UK business lobby, has recently published its First Steps report. The report argues for the changes it feels are needed to make sure today’s students develop the skills and experiences they need to become drivers of tomorrow’s economy.

So what did it suggest?
The first key finding is something all teachers, senior leaders and students are sadly all too aware of – the negative impact of a narrow definition of success. The dreaded 5(A*-C) GCSE figure and its stranglehold on KS4 leads to limited success in raising standards from an international perspective. The gradual improvement reported by successive education policies masks a long tail of underachievement. This is especially prevalent amongst students from more deprived backgrounds, a fact endemic of an overarching target that “accepts a substantial rate of failure” according to the CBI. The report complains that the current education system is a “conveyor belt” where the danger is that students are not getting what they need.

“Too often, what is right for the young person may not be what underpins the school’s league table position. We call for a much clearer and broader statement of intended achievement for our school systems.” – First Steps Report, CBI 2012

So, clearly there’s a problem in what schools are being asked to measure, as despite a reported rise in standards over the last 20 years, businesses and employers increasingly complain of a lack of skills and competencies that will add value to their organisations and drive prosperity. But how to measure this?

Well, the First Steps report isn’t quite so clear on this one. It discusses setting broader goals for schools that “go beyond the merely academic, into the behaviours and attitudes schools should foster in everything they do”. Agreed, this is a better way to create target for schools, but creating a clear set of criteria for students of varied backgrounds in varied schools demands thinking about how students learn in its broadest sense.

Putting this into action
Four years of working with schools to embed enterprise as a way of developing skills, experiences and aspirations has given us a real insight into how students can achieve these targets. Enabling Enterprise has worked, and continues to work with schools where project-based, student led learning demands young people to think for themselves, be resilient, and critically assess ways in which to create, develop and deliver ideas. A great example is our work with Edgware Junior School where every class in the school is engaged with one of our lesson-time projects, from designing a new building for Kings Cross in London, to designing an eco-toy for Hamleys, to fundraising for charity. Through these projects, they are learning to collaborate with new people, generate ideas, create and run their own projects and then present them. The children are frequently invited to bring their ideas into the real world of business, as here at Freshfields, Wragge & Co or Argent, honing their plans alongside professionals from the company and competing against the other schools.

Such enriching learning, which includes opportunities to lead, communicate, present, organise, create, negotiate, work as a team, experience new environments, work with community members and business people is the goal of the most people in education.

What to make of it all then?
Rigour and accountability are vital, but they must target what is important for young people, not just convenient metrics. If we want to make sure today’s schools are full of the innovative, ambitious, and skilled economic drivers of the future, we need to ask schools to focus on their cohorts’ talents, qualities, experiences and goals; not a uni-dimensional percentage.

So, for the past term Enabling Enterprise has been pioneering a new approach to measuring our impact, and we are excited about our new framework to quantitatively measure the development on seven key enterprise and employability skills, alongside development of aspiration. The approach mimics national curriculum levelling, and uses a combination of student self-assessment with teacher verification. In this way we can state clearly what we think a young person needs if they are to be successful leaving school at 16 or 18, and then work back to the age of six to ensure that all the way through their education they are on track to reach these goals.

We aspire to an approach to measuring impact that moves from a “pat-on-the-back” to being able to identify the growth of each of the 15,000 students we currently work with. Because impact measurement shouldn’t just be about us, and backing our work, but about ensuring that we, and the students’ teachers, can intervene and stretch each individual to achieve what they need to.
We will be publishing a full paper in the Spring, but in the meantime, we’re building a strong evidence base for our approach, and you can contact Tom Ravenscroft at Enabling Enterprise if you’d like to find out more. We’re really excited about the opportunity to start putting the development of what students also need for success on the same par as qualifications – watch this space.

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One Response to “How to measure success?”

  • About | Enabling Enterprise Education January 25, 2013

    [...] a higher level of creative skill than another? And how can we quantify teamwork skills? In a recent blog, Alexi Makris commented that the CBI report acknowledges the need for schools to ‘go beyond the [...]

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