Putting young minds to work
Marianne Austin, Head of Kew College, looks at injecting 'real life' into the education system
Introducing learn-by-doing courses into the curriculum for our Year 6 pupils at Kew College has opened up their minds to the world of business and enterprise. We are determined to put the fourth ‘r’ – a slice of ‘real life’ – into the school timetable; it has stimulated a new level of curiosity and boosted the children’s confidence, as well as providing a welcome antidote to the academic swirl.
This year will be the fourth year in a row that our 10- and 11-year-olds have taken time out of their school day to explore the business world. When we first invited the education enrichment partnership, ‘Stride’, into the Year 6 classrooms, it felt like a bit of an experiment, we didn’t know how the course would be received by the children and what they would gain from it.
Fast-forward to the academic year 2017/18 and the Stride ‘Putting Young Minds to Work’ programme has now become much anticipated by those involved in the sessions at Kew College – and indeed by the whole school who take part in the Enterprise Fair.
But why is it so important to engage children in the workings of business and enterprise as early as age 10? This is a question I have been asked a number of times, and my response is that a properly rounded education should look at every aspect of the world that our children will be part of once they leave school. As we all know, business and enterprise will, in all likelihood, play a role for each child, so heads, teachers and extra-curricular co-ordinators really should be taking this into consideration when designing a rich, stimulating and useful timetable.
For most of our children, it’s the first time that they have actually thought about commerce and the way in which the world of business works. Our pupils gain a tremendous amount of confidence and curiosity from the course. The pitch presentation they have to give at the end of the process helps to develop their public-speaking prowess and the creative process and accountancy skills they practise during the sessions actually support the established curriculum.
The ‘Putting Young Minds to Work’ course we undertake at Kew College is by Stride, who design and deliver a programme of eight sessions run by experienced trainers, all of whom have a background in business. The emphasis is on making the programme as ‘real life’ as possible and so the children receive a loan of £40 per team with the expectation that the business they design, set-up and run will make a profit.
Each course culminates in a final event, which sees the teams competing with each other to win the Perfect Pitch Award. First, the children present their research, marketing plans, budgets and products to a team of judges, which is followed, by the products being put to the test ‘in-market’ as they go on sale at an enterprise fair that we host each year. All children receive a Work Experience Accreditation Certificate with awards for the most profitable team as well as the team that delivers the best presentation. The Summary Impact Reports issued at the end of the course are useful to show to parents, governors and inspectorate bodies and are valued by the pupils themselves.
My advice to headteachers with a vision for the world that our children will move into once they reach adulthood, is to engage their pupils’ young minds early to stimulate a passion and aptitude for business and enterprise that I feel sure will serve them well in the future!