Tom Ravenscroft is the Founder and Managing Director off Enabling Enterprise. This article was originally posted on the On Purpose website and explores the importance of supporting students to develop enterprise skills.

In 2009 a team of teachers set up Enabling Enterprise, a social enterprise that seeks to ensure students leave school equipped with the skills, experiences and aspirations they need to succeed in life. Constança Valadão Santos (October 13) talks to Tom Ravenscroft, EE’s Founder and Manager, to find out about his predictions for the future of teaching and belief in the importance of ‘character education.’

How would you describe character education?

A: For Enabling Enterprise (EE), character education is all about developing the key skills and attributes that a child or young person needs to be successful. In our work we’ve defined eight key skill areas:

Aiming high and staying positive

We see our role as trying to embed the development of these skills into schools and making that a core part of a schools’ purpose – to develop well-rounded young people who can go off and be successful whatever pathway they want in the future. I believe character education isn’t just about preparing young people for one particular pathway; it’s about ensuring that their latent potential can be realised.

Q: What will the future of character education be?

A: I know what we want the future to be! The mission of EE is to work towards a day when all students will leave schools equipped with the skills, experiences and aspirations to go and be successful. We are very serious about it being all students. We’ve grown over five years from a single classroom: last year we worked with 35,000 children, but that pales against the number of children who don’t get any sort of support in terms of character education. While we are going to continue to scale very quickly over the next few years, we know that in order to have that fundamental shift there needs to be a change in the culture of the education system. I don’t know if that’s about policy change but I think it’s much more about schools being motivated and excited about the role of character education. I don’t think it’s a choice between doing that and academic learning. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from the teachers we work with: they see that once the children are developing certain skills and attitudes they make much greater progress in their academic learning.

Q: What do you think the education system will look like in 20 years from now?

A: It could go a lot of different ways but I think some of the fundamental building blocks are likely to still be in existence. As much as people talk about things like MOOCs and online learning, all of which are helpful learning tools, I think there is something fundamental about the role of a teacher that will still exist. So I think there will still be teachers, classrooms and knowledge that children need to learn, even though it will probably be different knowledge – around technology and communication. And of course I hope that character education will be a fundamental part of that.

Q: What do you think will be the role of social enterprise in education?

A: The role of social enterprises is a really important one. I think social enterprises are a really important way to spread good ideas. If it’s done really well it is a way of bringing together innovative ideas, trying something out in a fairly safe way and then spreading innovation very quickly. I think there are different types of social enterprises: ones that are actively spin outs of public services and ones which try to identify gaps or cracks in the education system, creating solutions that work and then spread those solutions more widely. Focusing on those gaps and creating solutions that schools want to buy is a great way of developing the whole system.

Q: What do you think about teaching social entrepreneurship?

A: We do teach quite a few aspects of social entrepreneurship on our programmes. Quite a lot of the different projects that students do during their lesson times with EE actually aren’t really about setting up small businesses. Most of them are projects that are much more about social enterprises, whether it’s fundraising for a local charity or setting up a school magazine, suggesting improvements for the local area or for their school. While our primary focus is on the skills that they are developing we are also taking seriously the fact that we’re trying to widen students understanding of the world.

Enabling Enterprise work in partnership with 150 schools and 70 top businesses to bring the world of work into the classroom. If you’d like to find out more about how you can get involved, contact us.

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