Enabling children to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they will need to succeed in life is, (or at least should be), the ultimate purpose of the education system. However, a pertinent question that school leaders often ask is, ‘how can we prepare our children for a future that we don’t even know about yet?’ While none of us can predict exactly what the world will look like in 20 years’ time, we can be sure of one thing, and that is that it will be very different in a multitude of ways. With the accelerating pace of social and technological change, the World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children today will end up in careers that don’t even exist yet.
Whatever we think of that statistic, the world of work is certainly changing, as artificial intelligence and automation gradually take over the execution of routine work, and levels of self-employment continue to rise across the economy. Therefore, it is up to school leaders not only to prepare for the always pressing concerns of exams, or Ofsted visits, but also to consider how their school curriculum is preparing their pupils to meet the challenges that lie ahead for them in our ever-changing and ever more complex world. Prioritising the development of vital life skills, such as problem solving, communication skills, creativity, flexibility and resilience within your school curriculum will help to equip pupils to face the changes and challenges the future will undoubtedly bring, whatever they may be.
An example of a Trust that is leading the way in this regard is Maritime Academy Trust, which is made up of seven primary schools; five in Greenwich, and two in Medway. Together, the CEO of the Trust, Nick Osborne, and the Chair of Trustees, Tiffany Beck, have driven, developed and disseminated an ‘entrepreneurial curriculum’ across the schools within their Trust. This curriculum focuses on developing life skills such as problem-solving, creative thinking, teamwork, and building resilience, amongst many others. Nick tells us, “there are many reasons why we decided to develop an entrepreneurial curriculum for our pupils. We wanted them to develop life skills that would prepare them for the future, as well as raising engagement levels by making the learning as meaningful and relevant as possible. We also wanted to raise expectations, and pupils’ confidence in their own abilities, and we believed that this curriculum would also improve progress, attainment, and outcomes across the Trust (which it has). At Maritime Academy Trust, we definitely believe that children learn best through direct experience.”
“At Maritime Academy Trust, we definitely believe that children learn best through direct experience.”
How does the entrepreneurial curriculum work?
Each class focuses on an entrepreneurial project for one term of each academic year (either in the Autumn or Spring term). Maths and English are usually taught as traditional lessons in the morning, leaving the afternoon lessons open for work related to the class project. The children work in groups on separate segments of the project – from strategy, to marketing, to sales, and much more. “The learning goes across subjects, but not necessarily into every subject. However, as you can imagine, projects usually end up involving many different aspects of the curriculum, in a very real and meaningful way”, says Nick. “The practical application of the subjects becomes vividly clear for pupils, whether it’s working out finances for their project (maths), designing logos (art), writing information leaflets (English), or finding a suitable location for an event (geography). The possibilities of incorporating different aspects of the curriculum are endless.” As well as the individual year group projects, each Trust school engages in whole school entrepreneurial project each summer term; usually this project is organising and hosting a learning festival for parents to attend.
The entrepreneurial projects that take place in different year groups cross the Trust are diverse, and have included projects such as; an egg selling business (complete with school chickens), an art gallery, a coffee shop, a board games business, setting up a Viking museum, a magazine, an upcycling auction, a fashion show, and creating documentaries/movies to be shown to parents at a local cinema – to name a few! Each project leads to a ‘Big Outcome’, which is usually a final event involving parents. Nick explains, “when classes engage in these entrepreneurial projects, the key role of class teachers is to help the children to structure their time and tasks. However, more or less everything else is child-led, and organised and produced by the children. This makes the learning meaningful, exciting and relevant for the children, and is also what makes the final outcome, whatever the project is, so special.”
School In Focus: Timbercroft Primary School
A fashion show organised by year 5 pupils at Timbercroft Primary School is a good illustrative example of the kind of process that the children engage in within the Trust when completing their entrepreneurial projects, though of course the precise methods and details differ depending on the specific project. Their idea was to design and make their own jewellery and clothes made from recycled materials, to model them at their own fashion show, and to then go on to sell them. Their aim was to raise enough money to travel to central London to see ‘The Lion King’ at the Lyceum Theatre. To start the process they looked at different types of jewellery that they could make. They then devised a questionnaire for market research purposes, asking people what their favourite jewellery items were, and how much they would be willing to pay for them, and carried out this market research by asking passers-by on Welling High Street to complete the questionnaire. They then collated the information and used the data to inform their design decisions. The children also researched fashion through the decades to give them inspiration, and then designed and created their own garments from recycled materials.
Invites, programmes, tickets and posters were all designed and produced by the children to promote the event. Once the clothing was ready, the children wrote persuasive paragraphs about each garment which would be read at the fashion show. The class also made a plan to open a Boutique on the night of the fashion show, where they would sell belts, handbags, costume jewellery, and other accessories which had been donated to their cause. On the night of the show, the hall was full to the brim with family members who had each paid £3 per ticket. The event started with the fashion show. On the seats were bidding slips for the attendees to fill in for their favourite garments. After that, children offered complimentary hors d’oeuvres and refreshments which they had sourced, while everyone had time to spend lots of money in the boutique and place their final bids. Once all were seated, the silent auction began, and bids were revealed. The night event was a monumental success with parents and carers outbidding each other, and with one of the garments selling for an amazing £80. The final amount raised was a staggering £1705 overall.
The entrepreneurial curriculum at Maritime Academy Trust has been designed to specifically develop six key life skills, known as the 6 C’s, they are; collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication, character and citizenship. “These are the skills we want the children to take with them through life”, Nick tells us, “and our hope is that when our students grow up and leave school, they’ll have the gumption to do things like start their own businesses, or put forward their own ideas at work, or take a chance on something they might otherwise think they are too young or inexperienced to try.” The entrepreneurial curriculum also fits into the wider vision of the Trust, summed up by the ‘Maritime Mindset’, which is made up of 6 key behaviours. They are; supportiveness and trust, collaboration, adaptability, creativity and innovation, humility, and humour and positivity. While all of the schools in Maritime Academy Trust participate in the entrepreneurial curriculum, with the shared aim of enabling children to develop the Maritime Mindset and the 6 C’s, the curriculum is not overly prescriptive. Each headteacher is free to adapt the curriculum in the way they feel best suits their own school context, and to create their own unique project ideas, and this is summed up by the Trust as ‘consistency of impact without conformity in approach.’
“The entrepreneurial curriculum also fits into the wider vision of the Trust, summed up by the ‘Maritime Mindset’, which is made up of 6 key behaviours. They are; supportiveness and trust, collaboration, adaptability, creativity and innovation, humility, and humour and positivity”
Nick explains, “the main thing is that each school within the Trust understands that the ultimate goal of the curriculum is not the ‘Big Outcome’ (although that is always a lovely opportunity to celebrate the children’s hard work), but the lessons and the skills that the children learn along the way; it is much more about the journey than the final destination. We expect that the children will often make mistakes during the process, and we make sure that they know that mistakes are absolutely fine, and to be expected! In fact, the pupils learn more from their mistakes than from anything else. They develop their resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills by finding another way to move forward, rather than letting a mistake defeat them. That is a very valuable skill indeed, and hopefully one than will not only raise their confidence in the face of challenges, but also help them to thrive and succeed in life, and continually adapt in our ever-changing world.”
Has the curriculum been a success so far?
“I believe our entrepreneurial curriculum is proving to be a success on many different levels”, Nick tells us. “It engages pupils deeply, and encourages responsibility, and problem-solving skills, at a level that would be very difficult to achieve in traditional lessons. It also offers each individual pupil a chance to discover their own personal talents and passions, whether that be leadership skills, finance, art, public speaking, organisational skills, or absolutely anything else! I would say it has especially helped children who may not excel in a traditional curriculum to discover where their strengths do lie. Our ‘Big Outcome’ events have also helped to get parents into our schools, and really engage with their children’s learning, across the Trust. These events help children, parents and teachers alike to see just how capable the children really are, and how much they can achieve and accomplish when they are inspired and motivated to succeed. This in turn has helped to raise expectations and aspiration all round. The curriculum has also delivered very real and tangible improvements in results; we’ve brought it to each of our schools as we’ve grown, and it’s how we’ve turned schools around. Most importantly of all, I believe that at Maritime Academy Trust we are providing our pupils with unique learning experiences that they will never forget, and are also doing our very best to provide them with the skills that will help them to succeed in life, and contribute meaningfully to the wider world, whatever the future may bring.”
A note from the Chair of Trustees
Tiffany Beck, the Chair of Trustees of Maritime Academy Trust, and a National Leader of Governance explains the Board’s role in the development of the Trust’s entrepreneurial curriculum.
“We recognised the value of the entrepreneurial curriculum, which originated at Brooklands Primary School when Nick was the headteacher there, and we wanted to encourage its expansion across the Trust”, says Tiffany. “Our role as a Board was to engage in the strategic planning to make this possible. We also needed to create a deep shared commitment and culture across all of the Trust schools which would firmly underpin the curriculum, and embed it into the wider vision and purpose of the Trust as a whole. This was made possible through the creation of the Maritime Mindset and the 6 C’s. The Board has also been the driving force in making sure that the curriculum is clearly documented, and we have also pushed for a robust method to measure the development and progress of the pupils, in relation to the key skills that the curriculum is designed to improve. Pupil progress will be measured via a skills matrix, so that the results of the learning taking place is clear and measurable. To move the curriculum forward, we are now hoping to establish links with local businesses, so that they can share their expertise with both us and the children, and so that the curriculum gets our pupils more involved with the local community.
As a Trust Board, we strongly support the entrepreneurial curriculum, as we have seen its positive effects on pupils’ learning and outcomes first hand. It’s a huge part of what makes our Trust so special, and we are proud of the difference that it is making to the quality of our pupils’ education across the Trust, and the positive impact that we strongly believe it will continue to have for the pupils in the future, as they leave school and embark on their future careers.”
- Vision & Culture – An entrepreneurial curriculum should be developed to fit in with the wider vision and aims of your Trust, and be embedded into the culture of your schools. This will ensure that staff, pupils and trustees all understand the purpose and value of the curriculum. This will encourage an enthusiastic approach from staff and pupils alike, as well as a deep understanding of the curriculum’s aims, and a clarity of purpose across the board.
- A child-led curriculum – The key to a successful entrepreneurial curriculum is to make sure that ideas, decisions, and organisation are all child-led. It is the teacher’s role to help the children to structure their time and tasks, but not to lead the pupils’ organisation or actions; pupils must take ownership and responsibility for the project themselves; this is what will enable them to develop the desired life skills.
- The journey is more important than the destination – An entrepreneurial curriculum is not based upon the ‘Big Outcome’. Though the final outcome is a great way to celebrate and showcase the children’s learning, and to share that with parents, it is the process that pupils engage in, leading up to the final outcome, which is most impost important. This is where the majority of the learning will take place, as children put ideas forward, plan, create, and organise. Set-backs and mistakes are to be expected, and are also an important part of the learning process; they will enable pupils to develop important skills such as problem-solving, adaptability, and resilience.
- Consistency of impact without conformity in approach – In establishing a Trust-wide entrepreneurial curriculum, it is important to have certain fundamentals in place which each school much follow. This should include shared purpose, aims and learning outcomes across all of your schools. However, within these guidelines, schools should be given the freedom to adapt the curriculum, and specific projects, in the way which they believe will work best in their own school context. Training, inset days, and generous sharing of expertise and resources across your school will help to make sure that the curriculum is enacted successfully within all Trust schools.
- Consider establishing links with local businesses – links with local businesses can provide a wealth of opportunities for pupils, through any expertise, time and support they are willing to offer. They can also provide pupils with context and insights about the world of work, and help children to understand more about the businesses and opportunities within their local community. Academy Trusts are in a strong position to use their scale and influence across localities to engage employers.