They were the words I was both looking forward to hearing and yet dreading in equal measure – “After SATs they are all yours!”. So how could I, a meer trainee, hope to enthuse and inspire a group of children that have just been tested to the end of their tether? I was given one boundary – “Enterprise Project – and, by the way, you are planning and managing it for both Year 6 classes” Oh great, the hits just keep on coming!
Now I had been led to believe that the last thing this year group would need is some new learning so I decided to take a different approach to the topic. A quick search on TES threw up some wonderful resources but little in the way of planning beyond either the old-fashioned “Enterprise Week” or the Virgin Money Enterprise scheme. Armed however with some fantastic resources I set about making the project my own.
I took the “no new learning” statement to heart. What I wanted to achieve was maximum engagement with the task whilst framing previous learning into some kind of context. Giving children tasks where they could show off their knowledge with purpose seemed like the correct tack to take. So, armed with all the research I could find on Project Based Learning, I set about planning the week.
The first change I thought of was no fixed lessons. Outside the confines of the school day (breaktime, assembly, lunchtime) there would be no “Lesson Time”; everything would be split into tasks and deadlines, sometimes these deadlines would dovetail nicely into the school day, sometimes deadlines would be split across days/periods. This led me to think about timetabling in a different way – could children used to the rigid discipline of the school day cope with a more free-flow approach? Also, how could I justify my decision to my mentor? Luckily my mentor had decided to take a completely hands-off approach to the project, only advising me to have sound educational reasoning for the decisions I was making.
Using the “no new learning” as a start I was able to think about the other skills that some educators think are missing in schools; teamwork and cooperative working, leadership and creativity. Could I use this as a vehicle to work on these skills? Would the children be able to switch from the singular mindset required for SATs into a system that would only reward teamwork? This part required careful planning and in the execution would have unpredictable results (whilst being totally predictable in some ways). After some discussion we decided to let groups self-form then we would carry out a skills audit. Children had to rate themselves on their skills; total them within the group and then see if there were any gaps that might require changes in their teams. As expected, children formed groups based around their friends first but the skills audit did show some discrepancies. Groups were given the choice to change personnel (a democratic debate followed by a vote ensued) but elected to work with their deficiencies. The groups were then given a lesson on teamwork that was a straight copy of something I used to instruct in the military – the model fitted the situation perfectly (ask my class about CAKE and you will get a surprising answer!*).
What have we achieved in the first week then? Well, children have used their persuasive writing skills to create posters, leaflets and a radio advert. They have given presentations on their business plans and written to the Head Teacher (the bank) asking for the funds they need to start their business. They have conducted market research, analysed the data and calculated profit margins. None of this matters though. They have learned to work as a team, leaders have blossomed (leaders were chosen by the group after a short sales pitch) and have embraced the project as was intended. I have deliberately walked out of the class to stand outside at certain points and the children have carried on as if I was still there. The SLT have commented on the engagement levels and the quality of work being produced. The children are working as hard as they have all year and are genuinely disappointed when we have done a non-enterprise task.
I have surprised myself with this project however I firmly believe it has been as a result of changing the educational focus and moving to a “finished product” model rather than looking at a series of discrete lessons. There are things I would change if I did this again but that is part of my transition to a truly reflective practitioner. The faces of the children each day tells the whole story though…
*Concurrent activity, Anticipation, Knowledge and Enthusiasm – paraphrased from an old instructor of mine!