Enterprise education plays a key role in helping children adopt a positive mindset along with a multitude of valuable life skills and attributes. It helps them find ways to overcome obstacles and shapes their attitude towards work and their future, opening their eyes to a world of possibility.
We’re going to take a closer look at what enterprise education is, why it’s important, and the role it can play at a primary or elementary school level.
Enterprise education or enterprise learning is the practice of helping to develop the skills and attitudes we most closely associate with being enterprising or entrepreneurial. This doesn’t just mean teaching children about profit and loss and how to count their pocket money; being enterprising is far more than that.
Being enterprising (or entrepreneurial), is about having a positive and resilient mindset and a healthy attitude towards trying new things. Key traits of enterprising people include:
The younger someone develops their enterprising mindset, the better. It’s easier to instil during primary school than college. The sooner someone starts practising enterprising behaviour, the more it becomes part of their personality and character. Likewise, the later someone encounters entrepreneurship, the more down the road of a steady career path they may be.
The subject of enterprise education can include technical elements. However, whereas a university degree in business studies might aim to provide practical and technical knowledge to students looking to start a business, it doesn’t make sense to include this for a seven-year-old.
Enterprise education is age-sensitive. The younger someone is, the less technical it should be. At a primary level, we should seek to develop behaviour, attitude and mindset. Having a basic understanding of how a business operates forms context, but isn’t the basis of learning.
The role of primary enterprise education must be to instil as many of these character traits as possible. These traits are useful for everyone to possess, not just an aspiring entrepreneur. Character development is far more potent during our formative years so the sooner we get to work, the better.
We believe that introducing children to entrepreneurial role models that display enterprising characteristics is part of this learning process and is especially beneficial for those who don’t have entrepreneurial role models in their immediate network.
We’re confident that by introducing children to positive entrepreneurial role models and giving opportunities to emulate their behaviour, enterprise education has the potential to not only inspire children to excel academically but empower them in their career choices later in life, whatever they may be.
Enterprise education remains optional for primary schools, although many have incorporated elements. This means there’s variance in the quality and quantity of enterprise education delivered to students in key stages 1 and 2.
Clever Tykes believes enterprise education should not be on the primary curriculum. We believe that campaigning for it to be on the curriculum is unnecessary and that our job is to simply make enterprise education and enterprise resources as accessible and appealing to teachers as possible. It must be an intentional decision for teachers and schools to deliver enterprise education.
Why? Because once it’s on the curriculum there has to be a mark scheme. We don’t want to reduce such foundational characteristics to a box-ticking exercise. It’s more important.
Read Lord Young’s 2014 report Enterprise for all, in which enterprise education forms a large part the overall strategy to improve enterprise and increase the number of entrepreneurs in the UK.
Aside from the development of a wide range of important character traits, there are studies highlighting the value of enterprise education.
Enterprise education increases the likelihood of someone starting their own business and the likelihood of them being successful (although ‘success’ is subjective). We also know that children who grow up with an entrepreneurial role model (even in storybooks) are more likely to make their own decisions when it comes to their career, and not simply do what everyone else is doing.
But why do we need more businesses?
Small businesses are fundamental to virtually every developed society. Entrepreneurs start businesses to solve problems, develop new technologies, and provide people with valuable products or services. These businesses create jobs and wealth in our economy, so it’s important we inspire and empower people to act on their ideas. We’re not necessarily keen on them starting a business whilst they’re still in school, but we should be encouraging kids to start a business one day.
Exactly how do you deliver enterprise education to primary school children? How do we encourage them to engage with what is, on paper, an advanced concept and subject matter?
There is an important distinction to be drawn between encouraging children to be enterprising and teaching them to set up and run their own company.
Firstly, we need to ensure that children have a positive impression of what business people do. The Clever Tykes books portray entrepreneurs in a different light to the traditional mean and greedy businessman in books and TV shows. Next, we must find effective ways of integrating enterprise learning into the school day, whether through discreet lessons or within other areas of the curriculum.
That’s why Clever Tykes developed resources to accompany the series, to ensure the effective delivery of enterprise to children through a variety of means including PSHE, guided reading and enterprise clubs. The books also give context to maths, IT and art and design projects, giving children an understanding of the practical application of these subjects. We believe that both a holistic and practical approach must be taken to inspiring enterprise in young children.