How having a strong character curriculum can bring out pupils' inner-entrepreneur

Posted on: 20 Mar 2018
Posted by: David Leith

David Leith, head of the prep department at Pipers Corner School, discusses how character curriculum initiatives can help pupils to understand money better and develop in their leadership skills.

There are certain students that even by the age of ten, have an unquantifiable quality, a spark, a zest for life that transcends academic excellence and leaves you with a confidence that they will go on to live successful fulfilling lives.

As teachers, we were able to name these girls, but we struggled to identify the attributes they demonstrated that gave us such cause for optimism. Quite often these were not the most academic students and indeed many of these extraordinary girls had prescribed learning difficulties such as dyslexia. After much deliberation we concluded that these girls all exhibited character traits similar to those required to be successful entrepreneurs. In other words, they were focused, resilient to failure, creative, curious and had good interpersonal skills. These skills were universally acknowledged as being desirable for high performance learners, but within our current curriculum it was not always apparent where they would be recognised and celebrated other than through academic grades. And so, we launched the first of our character curriculum initiatives.

The Prep Captain Challenge This was an open ended task that would require our Year 6 students to work together under the leadership of the prep captain (a Year 6 student chosen for her leadership qualities) to use their talents to raise some money for a charitable cause with staff only involved in a mentoring capacity. The girls settled on an ambitious project to open a pop-up restaurant for one night with accompanying entertainment provided by prep musicians.

From this open ended challenge, the girls surpassed our expectations and showcased a range of leadership qualities and soft skills whilst raising over a £1,000. The amount raised was fantastic, but secondary to watching the girls work so effectively to break down the challenge into smaller component activities and come together as a team. The highlight for myself was to sit in on phone calls where the girls contacted local businesses to (politely) negotiate for supplies or gifts to be auctioned. The confidence and interpersonal skills on display were just amazing and frankly speaking I’m not sure I would have had such self-assurance at such an age.

Parents and students spoke very positively about their experience and the sense of achievement that the girls felt from being involved in such a project. Flushed with the success, the following year we decided to expand the character curriculum to include an additional enterprise opportunity for the younger students.

The Fiver Challenge During the summer term, each student in Years 5 and 6 was given a five pound note and 30 days to grow it for charity. Applications were also accepted from students in Year 3 and 4 where the girls demonstrated a particularly keen interest to take part. Whilst the bursar was initially hesitant at handing over money to the girls, his leap of faith was vindicated as the girls typically grew their investment five times.

Leading up to the handing over of the five pound note, the girls were encouraged to prepare a plan during their Thinking Skills lessons. They considered the four 'Ps' of their business plan. Product, Place (where will you sell it), Promotion (advertising their business) and Pricing (to make a profit).

Of all the enterprise projects we do, this is undoubtedly the one that continues to surprise me and delight me the most. On the 30th day the girls return the initial investment of the five pounds to the bursar and declare the profit they have made together with a journal of their business activities. The cross-curricular links to maths, English and a whole host of other subjects are tangible but it was the opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence skills that is most commented on by parents and it was pleasing to see that was acknowledged during an ISI inspection in 2016 when the school was graded as outstanding.

Financial Literacy Over the last four years we have continued to grow and evolve the enterprise culture at Pipers Corner Prep Dept. with every year group involved. We have also engaged with businesses such as Metro Bank to deliver financial literacy lessons and Google UK with students visiting the Google HQ to showcase their business creativity to the Google executives.

Summary Whilst all these projects have a financial outcome, what has been most pleasing is the emotional intelligence that the girls have demonstrated completing them. The money element and the financial literacy of the challenge have been the medium for the girls to display and grow their soft skills and as such, it’s given them an opportunity to shine that might not have existed previously.

About David Leith

David Leith is head of the prep department at Pipers Corner School, a girls' school in Buckinghamshire.