Alice Faulkner is a Senior Education Associate at Enabling Enterprise. Prior to that, she was a maths teacher at a secondary school in South London. Here, she offers her insights into how we can measure so-called ‘soft skills’.

Recently, it has become clear that huge emphasis is placed on the need for students to develop key life skills, often referred to as ‘soft skills’, in order for them to succeed in life. Just last week yet another new piece of research highlighted the stark difference in the numbers of privately educated students attending university, compared to those from state schools.

The research argues that ‘less privileged students have scantier knowledge as to how to go about achieving their ambitions and have been less equipped with the soft skills employers want’. Although frustrating, these findings are not a surprise for those who work in education – the discrepancy between success levels of students from different backgrounds has existed for many years, and led to a variety of government initiatives to encourage greater skills development.

Measuring Enterprise Skills

But what these initiatives do not answer is the key question; how do we measure these skills to ensure they are being developed? Indeed, how to we measure one student as having 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 academic’, but once again skirts around what this should look like. Why does the education sector struggle to define such a key aspect of students’ development?

As an organisation, we have realised the importance of not just clarifying what the skills are, but also how they are measured. By measuring these enterprise skills, we can set expected standards, share success criteria and support teachers in how they can develop these skills in their students. Without this guidance, schools are left in a grey area in which they are expected to produce results but without knowing when they have succeeded.

Current Methods

Currently, a common way to measure the success of these softer skills is to look at employment or NEET statistics; but you can’t clearly attribute these statistics to a particular skill. What’s more, surely by then it is too late? Enterprise education is about ensuring that students have these skills from a young age, and are able to confidently demonstrate them. And if this is the case then it is essential that they are measurable. Then, students will be able to build an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and how to improve them; an invaluable skill in itself.

Many educational organisations, from schools to social enterprises and beyond, have called out for school success to be measured by more than 5 A*- Cs at GCSE, but the counter argument should be acknowledged; at least this is clearly quantifiable. The difficulty with enterprise education, and skills development, is that it is not as obviously open to such clearly defined benchmarks, leading to a lack of consistency in assessment. If it is possible to standardise these skills, then they can be used as a form of comparison between students, schools and teaching methods.

It can always be argued that we shouldn’t simplify these core skills, and by standardising them we are not allowing for the subtle variations within these skills sets. But this is a futile argument when organisations are hiring through assessment days based around applicants demonstrating and vocalising examples of these enterprise skills. The top 5 graduate employers are currently PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, TeachFirst and Aldi, all of whom ask applicants to demonstrate various ‘competencies’.

In fact these applicants will have undoubtedly been asked for examples of their core skills or competencies many times prior to their graduation, not least in the UCAS personal statement. Applications for almost any route post-school require a level of self-awareness and analysis of various skills, which can be daunting for young people. Personal statements or the highlighting of personal strengths exist in recruitment processes across the board, from part time jobs at Sainsbury’s, to college applications and even some volunteering schemes.

Developing a Standardised Structure

By creating a structure for the key skills that most employers or educational institutions are interested in, we are giving young people the confidence and the language to express their strengths. In order to make this something that fits in with existing school language, it is important that it has tangible links to the National Curriculum. This also has the advantage of being straight forward for teachers to understand, and easily link to the different subjects across the curriculum.

With this in mind, we have developed a structure of impact assessment and analysis that clearly guides students’ progress in 7 key skill areas; communicating, presenting, problem-solving, working in a team, being creative, leading and staying positive. These skills, which may not initially seem quantifiable, are measured through students’ reflection on levelled statements, then validated by teacher feedback. Students can see themselves progress from a level 2 in problem-solving, “solving a problem using my team mates’ ideas” to a level 6 skill of “choosing from different ways of solving a problem”.

We are excited about the prospect of enterprise education being a valid measure of success in a school – both for external assessment, such as Ofsted, but also internally for students and staff to be confident that the young people in their school are being given equal footing as a student in another school.

If there are discrepancies between the successes of students from different backgrounds due to seemingly intangible skills, I would argue that the answer is to make them tangible. If the corporate sector is able to assess these skills in their recruitment process, then the state education sector should be confident in doing so throughout students’ education.

If you have any comments on any aspect of this article, or are interested in being a part of our new approach to measuring the impact of enterprise education, then please don’t hesitate to contact us and get involved.

Post discussion

Leave a comment

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree

About Enabling Enterprise: … Our Mission Enabling Enterprise is an award-winning not-for-profit social enterprise, set up...



General inquiries: info@enablingenterprise.org
Details: Visit the Contact Page

  • 4
  • 9

Sign up to our Newsletter here.