A meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on social enterprise was held in Westminster yesterday to hear presentations about the role of the sector in education.
The session began with a discussion about the approach taken in Scotland led by Social Enterprise Academy, where more than a thousand schools (sixty per cent primary schools) had engaged — and the programme was being expanded through the British Council and a franchise model, including some pilots to start soon in London. In Scotland, the establishment of social enterprises in schools has been pupil-led, based on trading, lasting more than a year and requires full school coverage. Pupils are invited to reflect on what they care about, and the participants shift observably from passive learning to active citizenship in the course of their projects.
Two school-focused projects based in east London also shared their experience, citing the value which exposure to the development and operation of social enterprise can have on the curriculum and skills acquisition in practical contexts. The main challenges being co-ordination (rather than capacity) and effective school engagement given the other pressures on education resources.
A representative of the School of Social Enterprise shared the experience that the school has working in education, where starting with the social mission rapidly evolves in a enterprise model. Their objective is not to constrain the ideas of pupils, but to refine in the context of prevailing practicalities. The School of Social Enterprise generally delivers their engagement outside the school day, though it also sits comfortably with the alternative curriculum for those excluded or lesser engaged in academic study. In the adult programmes run by the School, the age of participants is reducing, including a number of graduates seeking to make their way in the social enterprise world: something which might stimulate further engagement with schools.
The scope for Local Enterprise Partnerships to be involved in the resourcing and investment, to complement a number of the projects funded with higher education was suggested as an alternative mechanism for effective delivery.