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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Can you teach entrepreneurship?
Mike Baker byline graphic
By Mike Baker

Fraser Doherty in kitchen
Fraser first made jam using his grandmother's recipes
Can you teach someone to be the next Henry Ford or Richard Branson? Is business enterprise in your genes or can it be taught in the classroom?

The government clearly believes that enterprise should be on the school curriculum. In the recent Budget, Gordon Brown announced a further 180m over three years to continue funding for enterprise education in the UK.

That's about 17,000 a year for each average size secondary school.

The scheme has been running for several years, yet many schools are still scratching their collective scalp, trying to work out just what enterprise education involves.

Kitchen success

Well, I've just met one young man who is well placed to tell them.

Fraser Doherty is only 18 and completing his first year of a business studies degree at Strathclyde University.

He has found success through jamming - no, not the musical variety, common enough amongst students, but the fruit-based version.

While still at school, Fraser started making jam according to his grandma's special recipes. So far, so ordinary.

Then he started selling the jam at farmers' markets and delicatessens all over Scotland. Fairly enterprising, you'd have to admit, but not yet exceptional.

This was fine for a while but as demand grew, young Fraser was soon making up to 1,000 jars of jam a week in his mother's kitchen.

Something had to give. It wasn't going to be Fraser.

So, his Highers completed at his comprehensive school, and still just 16, Fraser stepped his jamming up a gear.


His big idea was to market healthier jams, using grape juice instead of sugar as a sweetener, and using so-called "super fruits" such as blueberries and cranberries. He called it SuperJam.

He also realised he had to move out of the kitchen so placed a production contract with an existing jam factory.

In March this year, barely six months into his university studies, the supermarket chain Waitrose listed his jam range nationally.

This year Fraser will produce about 400,000 jars of SuperJam (and, no doubt, his mum is very relieved to have her kitchen back).

So you see, Fraser knows a thing or two about enterprise. Enterprise has been a feature of Scottish education for several years, so I asked him whether his schooling had been a help, or a hindrance, in encouraging this entrepreneurial skill.

He reckoned school had given him some useful skills in setting up the business. These included IT skills, making presentations, and numeracy.

Perhaps most significant, though, he felt that at school he had "learnt how to learn". Traditionalists who think education is all about acquiring knowledge rather than developing skills should take note.

He also pointed to some things that were missing from his education. He felt school had done little to teach "self-belief" and he complained that teachers "don't often mention that you could employ yourself when you leave, but tend to channel you towards jobs".

'Take risks'

Fraser is also realistic about the role of education in producing the next Branson or Stelios.

"Everyone can be more enterprising, but not all of us can be entrepreneurs", he said.

This is a view endorsed by Tim Campbell who was winner of the first television series of The Apprentice in 2005. He now runs the Bright Ideas Trust, which aims to match investors with entrepreneurial young people.

According to Tim, "we should not try to force young people into entrepreneurial activity but everyone can benefit from knowing about enterprise as it will come up in all types of jobs".

So what are schools supposed to teach?

According to Ian Hughes, who heads the enterprise and work-related learning unit at England's Department for Education and Skills, this is one initiative where the government wants schools to "tell us what works rather than the other way around".

However he does say it wants them to "be creative and innovative, to take and manage risks, and to do so with determination and drive".

He also believes the CBI got it about right when it stressed seven key "competencies" to be delivered through enterprise education, namely: numeracy; communication and literacy; IT skills; self-management; team working; problem solving; business and customer awareness.

So far, so good, but how well are schools doing and how do they fit enterprise education into an already crowded curriculum?

Much to do

The most recent report on the subject by the English inspectorate Ofsted, in November 2005, noted the danger that schools might view it as "yet another initiative", especially as they were judged on GCSE results, and league table positions, and enterprise education would not improve these.

Ofsted also found that about one third of schools did not have a clear understanding, or indeed a definition, of what enterprise education was meant to involve.

So there was much to do. Yet experts insist that developing enterprise education is vital for the economy.

Professor David Rhind, vice-chancellor of The City University, cites some interesting figures showing how Britain lags behind the USA in enterprise.

While 12% of Americans of working-age are, or have been, involved in setting up a business, in the UK the figure is just 6%.

He believes universities should do more to teach enterprise.

"We in universities still do a lot of teaching knowledge rather than teaching skills", he says.

But he is in no doubt that it has to start earlier and "it has to happen in schools".

Moreover there are some, such as Declan Swan, chief executive of the National Business Partnership Network, who argue enterprise education must start as early as primary school

For now, though, the government funding for enterprise education in England extends only to secondary schools.

Further education colleges and primary schools would like to get in on the act.

But, unless there is more money, that would risk - if you'll excuse the pun - spreading the jam too thinly.

Jammy teenager secures store deal
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16 Nov 04 |  Education
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16 Nov 04 |  Education
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09 Apr 03 |  Education

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