Author Archive

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STEMming the Tide- Why STEM subjects need to be promoted in schools.

At the start of my teaching career, there was an enormous desire from students of both sexes to be involved in STEM subjects. It was a time of great scientific discovery and development, and grand projects such as the quest to put a man on the moon inspired many a youth towards a career in the Sciences.

The inspiration gained from the Space Race led to a wealth of talent that brought the United Kingdom into its role as a leader in a range of technologies. Our economy flourished with the bounty gleaned from our innovations, and our society moved steadily away from a manufacturing base to one able to exploit the creative minds that sought to thrust technology forward.

It was a time of great development in the fields of Biology and Medicine too, with Watson, Crick and Franklin revealing the secrets of DNA, and Christiaan Barnard’s pioneering work in heart transplant.

Educationists did not have to ‘sell’ STEM subjects- they sold themselves, to a generation of enthusiasts that could not get enough of their science fix. So where, we must ask, has it all gone wrong? Why are STEM subjects now such a hard sell, and how can we recover the desire to learn these subjects?

The beginning of the problem was the very success of STEM subjects in schools. For many years, there was no need to promote them, and so teachers of these subjects sat back and allowed others to thrust their competing subjects in the spotlight. We sat on our laurels knowing that there would always be a need for scientists, there would always be jobs available, and that with a scientific role in the community would come great respect.

Society began to evolve and as it did so, the focus in education changed. From leaving the less able to fend for themselves, teachers began to offer more inclusive syllabuses that allowed every child the chance to develop their talents. There was less focus on promoting the most able through Grammar Schools, and many were swept away to be replaced by Comprehensive Schools that, whilst offering a high standard of education, were more inclined to offer a broader range of qualifications, giving a wider choice that began to erode the dominance of STEM.

Into this mix came the new GCSE qualifications. Some subjects changed their focus radically, from a knowledge based syllabus to a skills based one, and the need to ‘know stuff’ became less important. This offered the first real challenge to STEM, where the development of skills had always been important, and would continue to be so, but the huge knowledge base of STEM subjects had to remain intact. It was inevitable that with the flexibility of other subjects, STEM would gradually come to be perceived as ‘hard’ and their difficulty would offer a ready excuse to those who failed.

STEM subject leaders would rightly be proud that these subjects maintained their academic rigour, and that to succeed in them was still the mark of an excellent student, with a range of metal skills and agility . The problem, however, with allowing the concept of ‘difficulty’ to flourish is that human nature is often to seek the easy path, and potentially good STEM students chose instead to focus on less taxing courses of study.

In addition to this, teachers of STEM subjects have been disadvantaged in relation to their colleagues. Core subjects have been exposed to much greater scrutiny than others, and STEM teachers have consequently had to meet school policies in a way that non-core subjects could often avoid. Students seldom leave school without having completed public examinations in STEM subjects, while in many other non-core subjects only a relatively small proportion of the student body will even study them to GCSE. Teachers of STEM subjects are expected to differentiate to give access to every student in the school, whilst other subject areas may have to deal with a much narrower range of ability, and students who are more motivated having chosen that particular area of study. In addition, in most schools science subjects have been grouped together, with usually a maximum of two TLR posts available. Subjects such as humanities offer a much greater opportunity for career advancement, and in some schools, every teacher in the humanities department is able to achieve a TLR.

So- to sum up so far- a STEM subject teacher is likely to struggle to keep up with the workload required in these subjects because of the close scrutiny they are under and the range of ability of students they teach, and will have a poorer outlook with regards to promotion prospects. Hardly surprising then that teaching STEM subjects is not seen to be an attractive option for those leaving University with good STEM degrees. Whilst many graduates may complete their PGCE to ‘keep their options open’ and will even teach for a few years, the low pay, poor prospects and lack of work/life balance will often have them scurrying into jobs elsewhere where their skills and knowledge are better appreciated and rewarded.

Without good, enthusiastic and talented role models to teach in schools, we have lost one of the most important ways of selling our subjects. That is not to say there are not good STEM teachers taking up the challenge in schools- there are- but we all know that their numbers are becoming fewer each year, and many schools are struggling massively to employ enough high calibre STEM subject teachers.

On top of these problems, there is also the gender divide, with relatively few girls/women taking on STEM subjects. Perhaps girls may lean more naturally towards the aesthetic, but there is certainly a problem with the culture in many schools that fails to address the possibilities that STEM can offer. The biggest problem is that schools have a tendency to approach the problem with a blunt instrument approach, where more subtlety is needed. Having identified that girls do not seem to want to take on STEM, the approach is to push STEM at all costs. What is required is an immersive environment in which the range of possibilities is opened up to all students. It is a generalization, but one which can be evidenced, that many students know little about the range of opportunities available to them, and when it comes to career choices fall back on the known i.e. the jobs that their parents or close family have experience of. Few are willing to step outside the family comfort zone and attempt to take on a different and potentially more challenging career. How do we combat this? In every school, we need to display a wide range of job opportunities, with information about qualifications required, estimated earnings, prospects of promotion, and potential routes to success. As a student walks along the corridors in their school, they should be absorbing the knowledge that there is more out there for them, that the best-remunerated jobs are those that require specialist skills and knowledge, and that there are many ways to achieve success. We should be ‘programming’ them so that they are open to new challenges, so that an alternative choice (e.g female car mechanic, male nurse) is seen as both acceptable and ordinary. We must take away the stigma and the potential ridicule that challenging traditional gender rules can lead to.

We must also be more open to encouraging apprenticeships, both from an economic point of view, so that those who need to ‘earn to learn’ are willing to do so, and from an academic viewpoint, valuing the balance between skills and knowledge. We must also be more willing to allow our students out into STEM industries to find inspiration, and invite STEM professionals into schools to keep the momentum going.

We must avoid the urge to patronize girls who express an interest in STEM. It has become a cliché in STEM competitions to ‘encourage’ the girls to ‘beat the boys at their own game’. This is counterproductive on so many levels- the assumption that girls don’t know that they can win, the suggestion that STEM is really a male game, and that girls are being allowed to cross the gender divide as a privilege. I despair every time some fledgling feminist fails to see that their ‘motivational speech’ is actually putting girls off from participating to their fullest. We must avoid loading our personal agendas onto them and allow them to compete for the joy of competition- win or lose should not matter.

In the grand scheme of things, the government must also play its part. Whilst teaching unions will surely resist, it is time to pay STEM teachers for their skills, and at a rate that competes with industry that seeks to poach the most able and take our teaching role models out of the classroom.

Finally, we need to highlight where technology exists in schools, and how STEM subjects are at the core of our modern life. We must take the opportunity to demonstrate what STEM has achieved, and how everything our students hold dear is based on the very subjects that they seem to reject. We need to celebrate STEM with the fervor that other subjects celebrate theirs- with competitions, awards, STEM colours, STEM student ambassadors, and every creative approach to STEM we can think of. Only when we can see strong growth from STEM will our objective be achieved…..

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Five misconceptions about science teachers:

1) We all have Nobel Prizes sitting on our mantelpieces.

The public conception of science teachers is that we must all be incredibly clever, and have dedicated our lives to study. We are expected to know about every field of science, and every new development. If we do not have our own Giant Hadron Collider in an underground bunker in our garden, people feel that we have let the side down. When we offer to demonstrate a rocket launch, people expect ‘Mission Control’, hydrogen rocket fuel and a final countdown, not some little stomp rocket from Toys R Us.

2) We all worship Albert Einstein.

Yes, he was very clever. Yes, he looks how scientists are supposed to look (in films and on TV). No, we are not all old men with dodgy hair, questionable hygiene habits and a thing for young women. In fact, many modern scientists are women, and have a huge range of differing fields of study within science. We also are not all acquainted with Stephen Hawking, Neil de Grasse Tyson or Bill Nye the Science Guy. (But how great would it be to be on their Christmas Card list).

3) We are all nerds.

The study of science alone is not enough to make us nerds. We would also need to watch Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and have a working knowledge of fantasy fiction. We would have to possess items of fan memorabilia such as T shirts, mugs, key rings and plastic models of Klingons. We would have to have an intricate knowledge of fan trivia, and attend fan conventions. The fact that most of us do is NOT down to studying science. Mathematicians can be nerds too!!

4) We all think other subjects are inferior or a waste of time.

This is most definitely not true. Information Technology is very valuable. It helps us analyse results far quicker. Latin helps us speak a universal science language. Being bilingual makes it easier to apply to the EU for funding when we want to further our study. P.E is useful as it allows us to offer analogies when explaining physics concepts. ‘The space rocket is streamlined and cuts through the atmosphere in much the same way as a well-thrown javelin’. The fact is, all other subjects are a useful subsidiary to Science, so definitely not a waste of time.

5) We all play with chemicals whenever we can.

Breaking Bad gave all science teachers a kind of kudos that we have not had since the 1960s. People believed that we possess the knowledge to cook high quality crystal meth. If we had all the ingredients, we could be drug lords and live on the wrong side of the law. Our scientific integrity would force us to make only top quality stuff. Even if we choose not to join the dark side, we could still dabble and knock up some low grade explosives to make Bonfire Night more interesting. The fact that most science teachers seldom touch a test tube these days, and are just as likely to use a computer simulation as an actual experiment does not yet seem to have permeated the public psyche.

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Why young teachers need to be better paid

I live in Bournemouth. The average house price locally is £250,000. An average flat sells for in excess of £150,000. Rental properties cost approximately £850 per calendar month. Bournemouth prices are lower than those in London and many other U.K. cities.

So an NQT wants a teaching job. In Bournemouth, this would be paid an annual salary of £22,244 to start with. This equates to £1854 per month before tax. £10,600 is untaxed personal allowance, the remainder taxed at 20%. This reduces pay from £22,244 to 19915.2 0(tax paid £2328.80). On top of this, National Insurance has to be paid. at a rate of £1,702 annually. The actual salary paid is £18,213 after basic taxes have been paid. In addition to this, student loans will be repaid at either £23 or £30 per month- another annual loss of earnings of at least £276. This reduces pay further to £17937 annually, or £1494.75 per month.

So you want to teach in Bournemouth. You apply for and are accepted for a job. You need a place to stay, so you know that of your monthly pay, £850 will go on rent. You need also to pay council tax, at a rate of £1035.54 annually (minimum rate). This is £86.30 per month. You also have to pay gas, electricity, water and sewage bills. Let’s call these an average of £100 per month (though more is likely). Transport, phone and food charges all go on top of this. Out of our £1494.75, we are already committed to £1036.30 per month.so all these other essential expenses have to be paid out of approximately £450. Is this enough to run a car, eat healthily and keep in touch with family?

And all this is without any social activity, holiday costs, clothes, health costs (dental, glasses and prescriptions).

So, how do you EVER save for a deposit to get a mortgage to get your own home?

How do you stay positive with huge economic pressures, and the constant need to juggle finances? Hoe do you AFFORD to live and work in Bournemouth?

The government believes that teachers’ salaries are competitive for graduates, and that they should be attractive enough to entice new teachers into the profession. I, on the other hand, can understand why young people are turning away from the profession for financial reasons alone. Add to this the horrific workload, the lack of esteem the profession is held in, and the low morale NQT’s encounter from seasoned staff, it is not surprising there is a crisis in recruitment and retention. Far better to leave school at 16, take an apprenticeship, get paid whilst doing so, and build up a decent salary over the six years it will take a teacher to qualify. Less stress, less hassle, and more self-esteem. Why would anyone choose teaching?

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Orihuela Market

OM1This takes place every week throughout the year. The market is always well attended, and there are often cars parked in the surrounding streets in every direction, so arrive early if you don’t want a long walk. The market features a range of local seasonal produce, as well as preserved meats, spices and many types of olives. You can also buy both cut flowers and plants.

There are many clothing stalls, ranging from underwear to summer wear, to more formal outfits. There are plenty of accessories available- jewellery, bags, belts and scarves. You can also buy regional dress in children’s sizes.

There are many stalls selling toys and games. Children are also attracted to stalls selling sweets.

Household items are also available, including art and craft items. There are many stalls selling linens, and tablecloths are a particular focus of most linen sellers.

As always when purchasing from markets, be aware that quality may be variable, and that the safety of items, especially toys, should be thoroughly checked before purchase. It may not be possible to return or exchange items, so avoid impulse buys.

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Creativity and Perspective- a fish called Ghoti.

There must be many people who are aware that ‘Ghoti’ is another way of spelling ‘fish’. This is achieved by pronouncing the ‘gh’ as in rough, the ‘o’ as in women, and the ‘ti’ as in motion. It takes a particular type of brain to use the idiosyncrasies of the English language in this way. It requires both knowledge (of the English language) analysis (of its peculiarities) and creativity (to produce an alternative word form). To succeed, the writer must have a brain that functions in many different areas all at once. To understand the puzzle thus set, we need to have a similarly functioning brain, so it can recognize that this is a problem to be solved, that requires the use of our knowledge of language, and our previous puzzle solving skills.

Too often in schools, we prevent students from building up the versatility of thinking that is needed both to pose and solve these puzzles. Whilst puzzle-solving in itself might seem a futile diversion, the skills developed and honed are vital to the creative process.

Let us imagine, for a moment, that our ‘fish’ is floating in the air in front of our eyes. It is our task to catch the fish as efficiently as possible. The main thrust of conventional teaching would suggest that reaching out directly in front of us to take hold of the fish would be the most economic process. The fish would be quickly obtained, and it would free us to gather more fish in the future. This is very much how teaching works- we deliver an obvious path to the required outcome and expect immediate success. We then seek to build on that success.

The problem with this approach is that it is not always suitable. There are factors that can interfere with the process of ‘fish-catching’, and these factors can exist in the behaviour of the fish, or in the methods used by the potential catcher. The ‘angler’ must understand the task required of them, and must prepare adequately for the task. Tools must be gathered, a strategy devised, and patience must be exercised in completing the task. If the ‘angler’ lacks the appropriate equipment, or is unable to control their emotional response to the task, or indeed, finds the task futile and unrewarding, the fish will not be caught.

Equally, if the angler has misjudged the task, he may find it a more complex endeavour than he had bargained for. The fish might move quickly away, or become hidden. Then the initial strategy will prove inadequate, leading to frustration and failure.

This is where the value of a versatile mind comes in. The creative thinker can reappraise the situation. New strategies can be devised, new plans made and prepared for, and new approaches used that may lead to success. The versatile thinker will not only create alternatives, but will learn from each failure, refine processes and move ever closer to a satisfactory conclusion. Great thinkers throughout history have taken failure on board and used it to generate steps towards greater outcomes- think Leonardo Da Vinci, William Harvey, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Edison, and more.

The more we face difficult problems, the better we become at dealing with them. With the added bonus that versatile thinking not only provides us with a range of options, but gives us the skills to use past experience to analyse the possible routes, and make selections that have a greater likelihood of success. We learn to be more efficient and independent problem-solvers.

So- to paraphrase a well known adage- “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him when the fishing is good. Allow him to fail as a fisherman, to build up experience and knowledge, and he can always be sure that, with effort and dedication, he will find new and abundant fishing that will sustain him for his lifetime.”

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La Zenia Boulevard

LZ8 Shopping centre, Orihuela Costa.

La Zenia shopping centre has an amazing range of shops and businesses. It is a modern, well-designed centre with ample parking. The stores are laid out largely on the ground floor, with a range of other facilities on the upper level.

The ground floor boasts an enormous Decathlon store, and a B and Q/Homebase equivalent called Leroy Merlin, both of which are on the exterior of the centre. There is also a petrol station in this outer area.

Once inside the centre itself, there are a wealth of stores catering for almost every need. There are Home Design stores, ranging from Conforama at the budget end to specialist Home Interior stores that cater to more expensive tastes.

Clothing shops range from the large and well laid out Primark store, to well known stores like Zara, H and M, and C and A. There are also designer brands available, with an excellent Desigual outlet, and stores dealing with high-end labels such as Versace, Lacoste and others.Spanish stores are also well represented, and both men and women have plenty of fashion choices. Specialist jewellery and accessory shops are also plentiful.

LZ2 There is an excellent electrical store that caters both for the domestic and IT market. Other stores include the supermarket Al Campo.

Aside from the wide range of stores, there are many food and drink outlets. The ground floor offers many ‘snack’ facilities, including gelateria. The upper level has many and varied restaurants offering everything from tapas, to American diner eats, to full restaurant menus.

The upper level also houses the large and impressive children’s play zone, discretely located on its own side of the level.

The food outlets centre around a square that incorporates a stage area. There are often free entertainment activities on show. At ground level there are further activities for children, including a water jet maze. There is a Big Screen that shows films, video games and sporting events. If all this were not enough, there is also a bowling alley.

Children are well catered for in other ways. To get around the centre, parents can hire minI sports cars, landrover-style cars, or animated animals for their children to ride on. There is also a children’s bus and train service. There are also plenty of shopping trolleys with Little Tykes cars attached.

In addition to all these benefits, there are plenty of modern and clean toilet facilities, with baby changing and feeding rooms accessible to both parents. The entire centre is also wheelchair accessible, although more lifts are needed at certain times of the year.

Finally, if you are a gym bunny, there is a free outdoor gym, though this is unsupervised so must be used at your own risk.

My ratings:

Range of shops GOOD

Adequate shopping for both male and female shoppers GOOD

Child friendly environment GOOD

Parking facilities GOOD

Disabled access MOSTLY GOOD

Food and drink facilities VERY GOOD

Well worth a visit!

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Portsmouth Gunwharf Quays

GQ1This is my favourite outlet shopping centre. It has so much going for it- there are plenty of stores targeted at the male fashion buyer, so my husband can enjoy shopping there as much as I do. The stores he favours are Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste, although there are plenty of others that he will happily browse in. The biggest problem is usually keeping his purchasing within the household budget.

There are plenty of shops to attract my attention as well- from the handbag heaven that is Michael Kors, to the shoeaholic outlets such as Kurt Geiger and Ugg.GQ7

There are fashions to suit all ages, with Vans, Animal, Nike, Diesel and Jack Wills all catering to the younger end of the market.

In addition to all the lovely retail therapy that can be had, there is a wealth of entertainment available, including cinemas, restaurants, wine bars and cafes. There is a common area is the central square that house special events- such as craft fairs, and brass band concerts. The whole Quay area is also used for special events such as rally car shows.

GQ6The setting is beautiful, with the waterside features enhancing the whole shopping experience. There are special activities for children on the water at certain times of the year- for example Zorbing in the enclosed area that borders Saltrock and Animal.

There are fun features such as the ship figureheads that add a nice nautical flavour. The Quay itself is beautiful, and if you are a lover of boats, yachts and ferries, there is always something to see. There is also the famous Spinnaker tower with its viewing platform that can be visited for a small admission charge.

This is a shopping centre for a full day out. It is the most restful place I know that you can go to shop and indulge. I love visiting, and go as often as I can. It has never disappointed me yet.

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How much do we value young, highly qualified people coming into our profession?

At age 16, an unqualified worker can earn £3.79 per hour, and is allowed to work 40 hours per week. This equates to £7883.20 per annum for 2 years, a total of £15766.40.

At age 18, he/she will be able to earn £5.13 per hour for up to 48 hours per week. Let’s assume that they don’t want to take on more hours. Working a 40 hour week, they will earn £21340.80.

From age 20, they will be eligible for £6.50 per hour, or £27040.00 over 2 years.

A total of £64147.20.

They will have paid minimal tax on this as their earnings fall close to the personal tax allowance.

During the six years from 16 to 22, an aspiring teacher will have been furthering their education. To obtain a degree and a teaching qualification, they will have amassed student loans approximating £27000.00 or more.

So, when you start teaching, it has cost you £91147.20 to become a teacher.

What reward can you expect for this?

An NQT can expect to start work on £21804.00 per annum, clearly much more than an unqualified worker. However, they will pay 20% tax on a chunk of this, meaning that they will be no more than £9444.00 per year better off. They will also pay higher National Insurance, and will be charged a % of their student loan (which is gathering interest).

The best estimate that can be made from these figures is that it will be AT LEAST TEN YEARS before the cost of becoming a teacher makes it financially viable for those who choose to do so.

Yes, teachers may be promoted- but our unqualified teenager will probably receive free on-the-job training and have increased their income as well.

Yes, on the surface we have longer holidays- but the average number of hours per week that teachers work is 50 hours, 10 hours more than I have quoted for my unqualified teenager. In other words, teachers work the equivalent of 39 weeks per annum, plus 39 x 10 hours = 390 extra hours, or nearly 10 weeks, making a total of 49 weeks that a teacher actually works. If our minimum wage earner worked 50 hour weeks, they would work their 1840 annual hours in 37 weeks, and have a whopping 15 weeks holiday!! They have their social time spread out over the year, but in actual fact have considerably more time ‘off’ and ALWAYS WILL.

Do we really want students at school to be directed towards a profession which is held in such low esteem that the teacher must be 32 years old before they actually see a reward financially for their work? A profession for which they will sacrifice their social life in order to achieve the standards we try to uphold, and one where they are likely to suffer abuse from parents and students alike? I leave the question for teachers to consider.

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How to make a fuzzy felt card:

  1. Fold base card to make a standard card. I chose to make an A5 card, but any size will do.
  2. Fold the front of the card in half again. This will create the mechanism for lifting the top of the card.
  3. Cut paper to cover the ‘inside’ of the card. Part of this will be visible when the card is on show so choose a nice backing paper.
  4. Choose the image you want to put on the front. I chose a die cut decoupage, but any image will do. Back your image onto card.
  5. Attach the card and image to the front fold. Make sure the fixture is secure, and that the card will fit the envelope when laid flat.
  6. Add a support strip onto the inside layer. Use foam pads to create height. This is what will hold the card in place when on display. A whole strip is not needed, so individual embellishments like labels, greetings, flowers or other embellishments can be used instead.
  7. I added a new floral strip to my card as the two strips did not match up. I also added a greeting.
  8. You can add further embellishments to your own taste.

The following pictures show the steps needed to make an fuzzy felt card.

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Entrepreneurship and Education

There are those that assert that schools are failing to prepare students adequately for the world of work. Some believe that ‘teaching entrepreneurship’ is an oxymoron, and that schools, far from developing useful skills, push students along ever narrowing channels of learning, killing the sapling of entrepreneurial skill before it has had time to take root.

To these people, I would say, ‘visit some of our modern business academies and see how they are delivering the outcomes you desire’. There are so many methods being used to gear students up to the requirements of an ever-changing jobs market that it would take weeks to fully describe the excellent work in progress.

Schools recognise that the concept of a ‘job for life’ is outmoded, and that versatile, self-motivated and resourceful individuals are needed to take businesses to new heights in a global market.

Entrepreneurship is defined as ‘the capacity and willingness to develop, organise and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit’ (www.businessdictionary.com). Whilst only some of the skills needed can be taught directly in a classroom, many schools are now offering a wide range of opportunities to students. Activities delivered through specific days, or through extracurricular activities and visits, stand alongside curriculum innovation as a means to make our youngsters business savvy.

It is, I think, fair to say that some commentators have a very narrow view of teaching, and have failed to understand the many ways teachers now seek to engage students.

Using the business academy in which I teach as a model, I can illustrate the many ways in which entrepreneurial skills are delivered.

Entrepreneurial skills involve seventeen different characteristics according to www.entrepreneur.com. These, in their order, together with the way they are delivered in my school, are:

  1. Managing money. Students regularly participate in the ‘Tenner Challenge’, a young enterprise project in which students ask for a tenner a head as start up capital for a group venture. The team have to submit a business proposal, state who the personnel in their group are and their roles in the venture, and say how they propose to grow their business and make money. They then have a four week period in which to realise their business and generate maximum profit. In our school, it is a requirement that the initial funding is repaid and all profits go to charity. My school has an excellent record in this competition and have been outright winners in the past.
  2. Raising money. A variety of strategies to raise funds have been used at my school, including sponsorship, share issues, and requests for financing submitted to charitable trusts. Students are encouraged to find revenue streams for their business activities from many sources. One group of students fund-raise throughout the year to provide a day out for students with special needs from a local school. Another group fund raise to provide a Christmas party for the local elderly.
  3. The ability to use stress positively. Students take part in a wide variety of business based competitions. They have to work to deadlines, and often have to make presentations using IT skills, standing in front of an audience to deliver their proposals. We regularly participate in public speaking competitions, and have participated in mock trials, acting as magistrates to decide the outcome of a case.
  4. Productivity. Students have to produce artefacts for sale at our regular ‘E’ days which take place monthly. These can be goods or services and once again, funds raised are donated to charity.
  5. Making social contacts. Students are offered many opportunities to take part in activities with other schools. We regularly participate in STEM activities, which are often team challenges, such as the ‘Tank Challenge’ run by Bovington Tank Museum, or the ‘Bloodhound SSC Challenge’ to design rocket powered vehicles. We are also an International College, and offer exchange visits abroad, and welcome both staff and students from the European Union for regular visits and to take part in joint activities. We use videoconferencing to maintain contact with our visitors.
  6. Identify strengths and weaknesses. All students are offered mentoring sessions and target-setting twice a year, in addition to targets set in individual lessons. Some key stage 4 students also opt to take part in ELLI mentoring, a seven dimensional approach that seeks to develop student independence, enabling them to use a variety of approaches to identify strengths and weaknesses, and plan strategies for improvement. All students are taught via BLP (building learning power) and are encouraged to use a multidimensional approach to problem solving.
  7. Using people effectively. Once again, the value of assigned roles in business ventures like the Tenner Challenge helps to develop effective management. Students are also given responsibility in the decision making processes in school, being involved in basic decisions via the school council, to staffing decisions in which teachers being interviewed for SLT positions face an interview panel composed of students.
  8. The ability to train others and share good practice. Student mentors are used to support younger pupils in their business ventures. We have specific prefects that take on the role of business managers and advisers. Students may also take part in staff training days and CPD sessions, and students regularly present their ideas and achievements in staff briefing sessions.
  9. Managing staff. Students take on many roles through school activities. They plan and deliver activities (such as discos and entertainment activities) as a team. Students are encouraged to try out different roles, and to find where their personal strengths lie. Local businesses run mock interviews to prepare students for college, and we have an excellent citizenship programme that explains roles in business and government.
  10. Using SEO and digital marketing. My school has an excellent record with innovative IT. One of our early business ventures was the ‘Internet Rangers’ later rebranded as ‘Digisteps’. This offered retired and elderly members of the community free IT training, which was delivered by students over several years. We are one of the first schools in the country equipped with 3D cinema technology to broaden the educational experience. We also have an Eduprint facility and produce our own high quality posters and displays.
  11. The ability to split test.(running an activity in two ways). In all subjects we try to encourage the design of a range of options from which the best outcome is decided. All technology subjects produce coursework that requires the consideration and evaluation of different approaches. Students use a wide range of mind-mapping techniques to help develop alternatives. We are a recognised ‘Thinking Skills’ school.
  12. Social networking. Students use video conferencing, and are taught in IT about social networking, as well as data protection issues and effective use of technology. Issues of misuse of social networking (sexting/cyber bullying etc) are also addressed in both IT lessons and through citizenship programmes.
  13. Customer focus. Students learn advertising methods in business lessons, and are involved in delivering product to customers. For example, all our drama productions have a student-designed advertising campaign, with all artwork produced in house.
  14. Closing a sale. Students have input from business partners in which methods of achieving business success are covered. Art students produce artwork for sale, and advertise their wares at an in house art exhibition. Students involved in the Tenner Challenge have to make the necessary sales to generate profits. Our regular E days also have to generate profits to be given to charity.
  15. Dealing with failure. Mentoring sessions allow students to both celebrate success and devise paths forward from failed enterprises. There is a culture in our school that FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning, and that success is not achieved without setbacks.
  16. Spotting new trends. We are a highly innovative school, and our record with the Tenner Challenge, GEE week activities (Global Entrepreneurship Education), Digisteps and many other ventures is second to none. We have been involved in Earth Project Education, and have displays in school detailing our commitment to the environment at both a local and global level.
  17. Improving the world. The students that leave our school have a wealth of experience to help them take their place as Global Citizens. In addition to the projects mentioned so far, in recent years we have joined EU projects to raise the number of multilingual teaching staff, carried out teacher exchanges in a number of countries, delivered International Days to broaden students knowledge, and taken on the challenge of IMYC, a curriculum that has at its heart an innovative approach to middle years education. One of the units currently being delivered is the History of Entrepreneurship, in which the contributions of famous entrepreneurs to economic growth is studied. In addition, our Project Emerge group have raised money to be a significant lender for KIVA in the UK. (KIVA make loans to people globally who have no access to traditional banking systems. The idea is to finance profit-making ventures to lift people out of poverty).

I would argue that taking all our ventures together, we give students an excellent background in entrepreneurial skills. We involve students as much as possible in guiding their own education. We seek to offer every opportunity for them to develop as individuals and as members of a team. We accept challenges that will stimulate their interests and develop their learning. We offer rewards for success, both through conventional exam results, and through the use of Vivo reward points (that have a monetary value), as well as recognising achievement through house and subject awards. In short, we act as a business ourselves, working as a committed team, offering the best quality product we can to our students.