Have you ever tried to sell ice cream on the coldest day of the year or more importantly have you ever thought about the range of personal qualities you might need in order to be successful? Rotherham’s Make £5 Blossom is a fabulous enterprise project which you might want to try in your school as it stimulates a range of personal learning and thinking skills as pupils create and sell goods or services of genuine value.
I recently sat transfixed as teams of pupils described how they used a loan of £150 (£5 per pupil) from their business partner and used their ingenuity in order to make a significant profit. Did they succeed? The answer is of course they did because young children are naturally enterprising. You only need to watch Comic Relief or Children In Need to realise that.
One group of children were talking about how they used organisational and planning skills, creativity and team work in order to devise high quality Christmas products. Their profits purchased a much needed defibrillator for the school and the local community. When our wonderful young people are driven by a strong moral purpose they become energised, focussed and determined to make a difference. The next group of children explained how their profits were contributing towards maintaining a school crossing patrol.
It was Keown who stole the show. He was a visually impaired pupil with a genuine twinkle in his eye. His team used the loan to buy Tassimo coffee machines and launched a project called ‘Posh Coffee Tuesday’. In this scheme pupils, supported by staff were encouraged to ditch their usual mugs of Nescafe in favour of cinnamon lattes, caramel macchiatos and frothy cappuccinos. Keown suggested their project may have headed towards being unethical when, as dawn broke, they placed an ‘out of order label on the staff kettle. He also proudly claimed he had been placed in charge of collecting the money and he ‘hadn’t nicked any’! He then challenged us to identify £5 and £10 notes with our eyes closed. We failed dismally whilst his accuracy was unerring. More importantly he spoke of his team’s capacity to use their skills of negotiation to influence others to draw up clear action plan.
My business partners were the fabulously talented pupils of Herringthorpe Infant School who at the age of 6 and 7 took over the running of their Christmas Fair and turned in a huge profit. An analysis of their own strengths allowed children to be successfully allocated to key roles. Professor Ken Robinson argues that the curriculum should allow each child to discover the element where their natural aptitude and personal passion come together. These young people did this in style whilst developing an understanding of financial literacy beyond their age.
The project has now run for several years and I have been lucky enough to previously be the business partner to other schools. The project works best when the business partners are on hand to provide advice about how a successful business should operate through advertising, budgeting and ensuring that any product or service marketed is of the best possible quality.
Sometimes a project like Make £5 Blossom has a very positive impact. The provision of a defibrillator and a school crossing patrol are just two examples. In your school or community there could be things that things that pupils would like to change for the better and pupils running mini businesses could provide a means of funding such projects. On my travels around the fabulous primary schools of this nation I discovered one school where each year group works closely with a charity. Over the course of time they find out about how their partner organisation makes a positive difference whilst developing their own mini businesses to provide much needed financial resources. Sometimes the spin offs can be totally unexpected. During the recent celebration event to recognise the achievements of our young entrepreneurs, one successful businesswoman announced she had enjoyed working with her partner school so much that she had decided to train to teach! I wonder if she too had discovered her ‘element’.
I have long been convinced of the absolute importance of enterprise education in the twenty first century. The notion of a single career path for many of the young people in our schools no longer exists. They may find themselves changing directions several times over and they will need to be enterprising more than ever before. The scope of enterprise education goes far beyond children creating mini businesses and Inside Out Schools offer a range of training opportunities in this area. However, projects such as Make £5 Blossom may be a brilliant way of kick starting enterprise education in your school.
Finally, just in case there is any doubt the children of Meadow View Primary School successfully sold ice creams on the coldest day of the year.
NB You can also find out more about enterprise education in Will Ryan’s new book Dare to be Different: A leadership fable about transformational change in schools.