The best ways to engage enterprise in the school environment

Elizabeth Gimblett

Elizabeth Gimblett lives with her husband and two children in London.  She has 17 years of retail sales and marketing experience at senior level, and has spent the last 3 years working with schools.

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How best to teach children to deal with real-world, practical business skills? Elizabeth Gimblett, a professional with experience in this area, discusses how to teach these topics to schoolchildren in a way that’s fun and enterprising.

Enterprise in schools can be seen as a lower priority, but the beauty of enterprise initiatives is they bring learning to life, showing the learner how to apply their learning to the real world, and how this can benefit them.

Enterprise projects will benefit numeracy, literacy, confidence and creativity. The more they are practiced, the deeper the understanding. Imagine a busy stall on a primary school playground – children have to apply agile mental maths to handle money efficiently and get through the queue before break is over – but the learning is not just about mental maths and money management, it’s about crowd control, and working under pressure; it’s about communication and good customer service; it’s about being well organised, problem solving and working together as a team. In short it’s about employability skills and best of all the children love it. Further into their future, 82% of employers recruiting graduates are most interested in evidence of their employability skills, so real value lies in education making provision for developing these skills.

The challenge for teaching staff is how to fit enterprise into the overarching educational ethos of the school. There are some obvious ways to get enterprise off the ground; cake sales, cookie sales and sweet sales are all popular and relatively easy to organise, but go against efforts to engage children in healthy living and combating obesity. Another popular isolated project is to give children £10 and see what they can turn it into – with some soap suds and a bucket they can generate a profitable return from a successful car washing venture. The excellent profit margin, elbow grease, and entrepreneurial skills of the car wash are all to be celebrated, but when set alongside long term school based initiatives, the £10 Car Washing venture will be significantly less effective in developing numeracy, literacy, and employability skills.

The company I run is an enterprise provider offering a range of sustainable business projects to primary and secondary schools, where the pupils take the reins of the business and turn a profit along the way. The key lies in engagement, in selling popular products that the pupils love and where demand will therefore be sustained: pure fruit smoothies, eco friendly stationery in funky colours, and delicious snacks that add to your 5 a day. The enterprise team have so much fun rising to the challenges of their business that they don’t notice the real learning that’s taking place.

Our goal is simply to unlock ambition in every member of the enterprise team, helping them to understand they each have a valuable contribution to make, whether as an employee or as a next generation entrepreneur.

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