100,000 down…

Posted in Blog by EE Team with No Comments

Nov2014 12

Tom Ravenscroft, Founder & CEO of Enabling Enterprise reflects on the value of enterprise education and preparing students for real life as we have reached our 100,000th student. This article has also been published on Ashoka’s website.

Four weeks ago, without any ceremony, Enabling Enterprise started working with our 100,000th student. It was unceremonious because we had been too busy to notice.

Five years ago though, such a moment would have seemed wildly far-fetched. We were a group of teachers, united by a sense that schools could and should be doing much more to prepare their students for the rest of their lives.

Skills and Schools

Anyone who is familiar with the work of Ashoka or this blog will know the education skills gap I’m referring to. Whether we call them entrepreneurial skills, enterprise skills or ‘changemaker’ skills, these are the skills that will enable a young person to succeed in real life – the ability to work with others, organise themselves and communicate effectively. And of course, underpinning of all those areas are empathy and resilience. As a naïve new teacher, I just couldn’t get my head around why I should be satisfied so long as my students achieved basic academic grades.

The question was a challenging one – what would learning look like if we cared as much about students’ enterprise skills, experiences of the world and aspirations as we do about their qualifications and progress? And Enabling Enterprise’s initial idea was a simple one: to give the students the opportunity to learn about the working world by seeing businesses and asking the tough questions to the employees of the business. Then, back in the classroom to spend at least an hour every week working on collaborative enterprise projects from producing a radio show to launching a school magazine.

Over the last five years, the idea has been constantly developed and has evolved into a much more sophisticated, and powerful programme than that initial pilot with my own class. We’ve grown from working with 600 students in our first year to over 35,000 in the last one, backed up by support from over 70 businesses ranging from UBS to Freshfields.

Skills and Students

It’s hard to tell you about the average Enabling Enterprise student. They now range from 5 years old to 18. A few of them start the programme as confident leaders – others are too timid to put up a hand in class. Some are happy to present, while others dread it. Many avoid teamwork, or can only cope with collaboration if they are in charge.

What I can tell you is that focusing in the classroom, and starting young, works. In a couple of weeks, we’re launching our impact report for the last year and the evidence is clear – it is perfectly possible for children to develop their skills at a rate that will make them completely employable by the time they leave school. Indeed, students on Enabling Enterprise programmes make more than twice the progress of their peers not on our programmes.

Again, that will be no surprise to those familiar with the work Ashoka has been doing around empathy and how it underpins so much other skills development. We focus on empathy with our young people particularly through leadership and teamwork but it underpins so much else – including effective communication and being able to achieve goals.

Lessons Learned

The path from developing enterprise skills in a single classroom to 140 schools has not been a simple one. There are three key lessons that we’ve learnt along the way:

(1) There is no quick fix: Developing skills in our students is at least as complex and challenging as building knowledge. As teachers, we would never presume that letting children loose in a library for a couple of days would create accomplished readers. Yet too often, there’s a temptation to imagine that an enterprise day or challenge will be enough to transform a child’s skills. At Enabling Enterprise, we know that it takes time every week to incrementally and logically develop students’ skills over the long-term.

(2) Schools and teachers are essential: Outside organisations have a huge role to play in innovation in the education system. However, we should always be working with schools and teachers. Having been a classroom teacher myself, I can appreciate the suspicion that sometimes exists of outside ‘experts’ or innovators and vice versa.. To make a lasting difference for students, we have to work with teachers – who know their children best and want the very best for them.

(3) Businesses also have a key role to play: Skills are hard to teach because they cannot be taught in isolation. Our programmes are only successful because we also work with over 70 business partners from RSA Insurance Group to Birmingham Airport and this helps students make the connection between what they are learning in class and the application of those skills to the real world.

And to the next 100,000

Another world is possible. One where every student leaves school equipped with the skills, experiences of the world and aspirations to succeed. In another 5 years’ time, we hope that the 100,000 will be joined by at least 500,000 more.

We know that we can transform the skills and prospects of individual students. We know we can transform a classroom, and then a school. We’re excited to be part of the movement to make that happen for every young person.

Enabling Enterprise is a social enterprise that works in partnership with 70 top businesses and 150 schools to bring the development of students’ skills, experiences and aspirations into the curriculum. Find out more at www.enablingenterprise.org | Twitter: @enablingent

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