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'Entrepreneurship in schools is not a bolt-on, a club or occasional activity: it's life'

Posted on: 17 Apr 2019

Jonathan Forster, principal of Moreton Hall, writes how entrepreneurship is embedded within a school and discusses what it can do for every type of student learner.

When I was at school, I was always making things up.

Stories to get me out of trouble.

Stories for the weekly 'composition', set by my wonderful English teacher, Mr Beaufoy, father of Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter, Simon.

'Making things up' is the essence of creativity, the urge and talent of all would be entrepreneurs.

After 27 years as a head of an independent school, I cannot help but reflect that far too much time has been spent playing a game called 'education' which in reality should be called 'passing exams'.

As teachers, we are all too aware of having to 'teach to the test', the tyranny of league tables and the demands of parents. Yet we collude in this system and fail to make our voices heard in the rebalancing of education to value the power of creativity and the imagination, as well as promoting the important skills of learning and analysis.

Before my colleagues in the independent sector dismiss this as hypocrisy from a head who uses league tables as a marketing tool, let's just identify what entrepreneurship which is embedded within a school can do for EVERY type of student learner.

"Moreton Enterprises" (ME), in one guise or another, has been in existence at Moreton Hall, a girls' boarding and day school in Shropshire, for well over 30 years.

I didn't invent it.

Of course I identified ME as a USP, as a way of promoting the school, but much more importantly I recognised that its enormous value was as a learning platform for every different type of sixth form student.

Over the years, the role of staff guides to the students has diminished- sometimes with damaging -or at least comic - consequences.

The voice of the student customers has become louder (the customer is always right!), the directors of ME more responsive and, indeed, responsible for their actions.

So, who are these directors and managers of Moreton Enterprises?

They are Year 12 students, interviewed after GCSEs in Year 11 by the outgoing directors.

They ask one fundamental question.

What do you want to do with Moreton Enterprises next year?

Applicants then have to assess whether they are truly ideas people, prepared to take a risk and develop a new enterprise, or are they better suited to a role in managing one of the existing ME businesses - 'Boost', 'Essentials', 'Tuck'....?

This year artist Abi - Year 12 - started her own clothing range and sells direct to students through ME.

But the practical aspects in terms of shop space had to be assessed by a manager.

Every business needs both kinds of employee: the people who come up with the ideas to sell products and those with the necessary skills to run the enterprise. And those who have developed all the qualities necessary to be a success in business.

Every education system requires students to be imaginative thinkers as well as effective exam practitioners.

My experience has shown me that students become better at playing the exam system (passing GCSE and A-level exams) when they learn to value their creativity and assess its value in a non-academic, commercial context- Moreton Enterprises, for example.

And ME goes further than providing a shopping service for students and staff.

The regular Directors' Table dinners for students and local entrepreneurs gives ME directors an opportunity to interrogate women who have made a decision to take a risk, to reap a reward.

Recent business lunches with keynote speakers have fueled the imagination of a new generation who have been able to discuss success and failure with such luminaries as the Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor of the Economist; Nick Wheeler, Founder of Charles Tyrwhitt and Sir Malcolm Walker, Boss of Iceland. Each of these titans of the world of economics and business all deliver the same message: follow your dream and when you fail, which you will at some stage - "pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start right over again!"

And don't make the same mistake twice!

So entrepreneurship in schools is not a 'bolt on', a PHSE lesson, a club or occasional activity: it's Life.

And that's what good schools do: educate for Life!

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About Jonathan Forster

Jonathan Forster is principal of Moreton Hall in Shropshire.