At Mount Grace School, we have always recognised the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship and promote this through a range of activities, which we try to embed across the curriculum.
Students have taken part in Dragon’s Den-style competitions and we have also run the Young Enterprise programme. More recently, we introduced the Apps for Good scheme, which enables students to design and potentially launch an app to solve a problem or issue that they care about.
Activities like these are particularly important at this level to encourage students to think about their prospective career paths and to help them discover where their passions and strengths lie.
Enterprise activities often draw on a range of different skills and subject areas, including business, marketing, public speaking, design and computing, and can give students new-found confidence and help to unlock their potential.
For example, one usually very shy student has come into his own after working with peers to design and build an app prototype. As well as producing the presentations and taking a lead role in marketing the app, he has also contributed to a recent United Nations report on digital skills and has also Skyped a school in Dubai to share his new-found expertise.
Having the confidence and determination to grow an idea into a successful venture is essential to entrepreneurialism and allowing students to lead their own learning is integral to this. What I have often found when setting tasks is that when students are able to decide upon the finer details themselves they are far more engaged. An excellent example of this occurred earlier this term during a taster lesson for A level business.
Students were divided into teams and given one pack of Haribo sweets. Their mission being to make as much profit as they could from selling the sweets (for Children in Need). It was fantastic to see their enthusiasm and to watch them come up with different strategies involving pricing, advertising and offers. One team returned with £10, five times the original cost of the sweets.
The Apps for Good initiative has also facilitated a learner-led approach, as students are able to select a problem or issue that they have a personal interest in and come up with an app idea based on this.
It was really interesting to see how students managed the process. It was no doubt testing at times, but without these challenges and obstacles, students wouldn’t be reaping the full benefits of enterprise activities. Our winning team faced many false starts before finally coming up with “Social Bank”, which won the “People’s Choice Award” at the 2013 Apps for Good Awards. Without these initial setbacks, I wonder if the team would have developed the resilience or belief in what they were doing.
If students are to realise the true potential of entrepreneurialism, there needs to be a tangible end result. Offering them the opportunity to develop their own app offers students the chance to create something real which they can actually use.
Another activity we have found to be great in this sense is letting students organise charity events. We are linked to Greater Joy School in Zambia through the Beyond Ourselves programme and our students have revelled in arranging bake-offs, stationery sales and discos to raise money for this cause. The ability to make these events successful relies on their entrepreneurial skills, from coming up with the initial idea, to marketing it, to ensuring that it will generate a profit.
Even when students are not engaging in practical activities, it is still important to make learning “real” by drawing on real-life examples. I am a big fan of BBC’s The Apprentice for example, and often if I spot something on the show which I think could be a valuable lesson to students, we will watch the clip as part of a lesson or I will set it as a homework task. This will then be followed with a class discussion on what went well and what could have been done better.
Elsewhere, industry links can be incredibly useful for students, providing them with an insight into the world of work and encouraging them to think about what they could achieve if they set their minds to it.
Through Apps for Good, we have been given access to more than 800 technology professionals who volunteer their time to help the students develop or pilot their app ideas.
This has helped open students’ eyes to the world of technology and business. Even reaching out to local businesses such as hairdressers and restaurants, to see if students can carry out research to inform their marketing strategy, can offer students a unique learning experience.
Over the summer, the SocialBank team worked with Shoreditch-based app development agency, Bold Rocket, and it was amazing to see the effect that being in a professional environment had on the students: presenting their ideas maturely and confidently, and coming up with innovative solutions to obstacles they came up against. In fact, the developers at Bold Rocket were so impressed that they actually took on board some advice from our students regarding the development of their own products.
Enterprise activities are integral to creating a more engaged and entrepreneurial student population, ready to excel in today’s increasingly competitive jobs market. Teaching the necessary skills does not have to detract from the time spent on other subjects either, and in fact activities can work really well when weaved into the broader curriculum.
Further informationApps for Good: www.appsforgood.org
Fathima Anwari is ICT and business teacher at Mount Grace School in Hertfordshire.