Successful Futures has garnered plenty of attention since its inception in 2015. But its focus on entrepreneurial skills has been less well-documented. Alison Evans explains…
One of the key purposes of the curriculum outlined in ‘Successful Futures’ is to ensure all learners will be ‘enterprising, creative contributors’ who are skilled in creative thinking, able to take calculated risks, and display the emotional resilience and desire to work collaboratively for the benefit of themselves and others.
This could be interpreted as promoting a more philanthropic, altruistic and even benevolent view of the purpose of education which has its focus not only on the individual but on the collective in terms of its holistic benefits to the wider community.
One might argue that, in the context of significant pockets of deprivation in Wales (23% of adults and 30% of children living in relative poverty) such a compassionate and self-sufficient focus of education is fitting if we are to really tackle matters of equality and social mobility.
During my 20 year career as a teacher of Business Education, the notion of ‘enterprise’ and anything to do with developing ‘entrepreneurial attitudes’ was firmly and exclusively the responsibility of the Business department in schools.
Apart from the relatively small numbers of learners who signed up to participate in a scheme such as ‘Young Enterprise’ where they gained credible experience of taking up a role in running their own business, chances to formally experience ‘enterprising and creative’ learning opportunities were commonly limited to one ‘enterprise day’ per academic year.
Typically, these one-off events included challenges set up for teams of learners to design a product or marketing campaign, or to pitch an idea to a panel or suchlike and, although potentially beneficial at the time, the stand-alone events were often scheduled at the end of the academic year and were perceived by learners and most staff to be a treat where learners could enjoy a little fun and learning and assessment were limited.
So let’s return to ‘Successful Futures’ and its proposals to develop ‘enterprising, creative contributors’ in the context of wider radical curriculum reform. As we move into an era where teachers have much greater freedom in the selection of material appropriate for their learners’ needs, and with a much greater emphasis on teacher-led assessment, it can be argued that we need a new professionalism within education.
Teachers are key guardians of education and, more than ever, we need a strong and flexible workforce that is able to innovate and develop the ‘softer’ skills, dispositions and attitudes in our learners in order to meet the needs of modern society in Wales. Industry has long recognised the value of creativity, innovation and enterprise in terms of success and research has shown that the idea of infusing entrepreneurial attitudes has lots of benefits such as economic growth, job creation, increased resilience and – not least – increased engagement and enjoyment in school life.
If entrepreneurial attitudes and creativity are central features of modern life, they should be developed and extended throughout a school career. This means re-thinking and re-categorising the narrow (and out-dated?) definition of enterprise and entrepreneurial characteristics and instead training, encouraging and enabling all teachers to model and adopt such competences in their practice.
For me, this further adds weight to calls for a new professionalism, one that is built upon critical self-reflection, which views the teaching profession as a learning profession. Enterprise education can be considered as both a subject to teach (Business Studies or Economics, etc.) and also a way of teaching any topic through seeking problems, offering solutions, designing project-based tasks and looking for ways to facilitate collaboration.
The recognition of the role of creative pedagogical approaches has grown over the last few years and teachers need to explicitly model their own creative attitudes, have high expectations for their learners and – most importantly – leave space for the unknown. Numerous studies have shown that creativity is not fixed, rather it develops and evolves over time as a result of ‘natural’ and targeted interventions. Young people’s school experiences should stimulate their imaginations in ways which promote creativity and enterprise, all delivered by teachers who are expert and skilled in imaginative and entrepreneurial artistry.
Sounds wonderful? Barriers still exist in terms of high-stakes accountability measures for teachers which may inhibit any further moves into the promotion of more creative ways of learning. Proper training and support needs to be offered to practitioners, some of whom may lack confidence in their skills or may not see the worth in adopting such approaches.
Teachers may have different conceptions of creativity and enterprise and may even be unaware that their current practice could stifle creativity. It can be argued that the Welsh Baccalaureate, with its enterprise focus, goes some way to infusing entrepreneurial competences in education but does it go far enough? What about younger learners? What about the perceptions some learners and parents (and staff?) have of the value of the qualification?
Having moved into higher education three years ago as a teacher educator responsible for training future Business Studies teachers, this debate is just beginning although I hope that the concept of ‘enterprise’ will not be subject to the narrow focus of just being relevant to those subject specialists as I encountered in my teaching career.
This blog must conclude with a reference to the Furlong Report into initial teacher education (2015), which states that ‘tomorrow’s teachers’ need a new kind of professionalism capable of delivering Donaldson’s four purposes of the curriculum by taking responsibility for innovation. Our journey begins…
- Alison Evans is a PGCE Business Studies Tutor at Yr Athrofa, University of Wales Trinity Saint David