World Values Day

Today is World Values Day, serving as an important reminder as to why our values are so important to us; they underpin all that we do and why we do it, igniting our passion. Here we want to share one of OEG’s values in action, which is giving back to help others grow and develop.

As part of Operam Education Group’s giving back ethos, Eddie Austin, CEO, has been involved in the development and delivery of school based social enterprise programmes called ‘Stepping into Business’. The programme’s vision is to empower children to succeed in the 21st century through an enterprise programme carried out in schools but supported by local entrepreneurs who act as ‘Business Angels’. The idea was to develop a programme that would bring learning alive by linking entrepreneurial and business skills to the school curriculum which would in turn encourage social mobility, confidence and resilience amongst pupils.

Key to the programme’s success is having a key lead within the school, to support and train teaching and support staff, as well as coordinate the programme. The programme is taught to the Year 6 cohort over several school terms, and linked to the national curriculum, for example, maths is linked to investing, finance and profit. Business Angels from a wide range of sectors give their time, which consists of about 2 or 3 days per year, to work with schools and share their stories about how they reached where they are today, serving to inspire the pupils about what may be possible for their future. Amongst the questions that Eddie has been asked by children are: ‘What did your parents do?’ ‘What car do you drive?’ ‘And can we see it?’ ‘Do you cry at work?’, demonstrating the awareness of children regarding people’s potential, social mobility, and work satisfaction. Equally important is the support of parents who are offered information about the programme, so they too are engaged with the process.

The programme currently focuses on Year 6 pupils, in order to help with the transitioning period from Primary School to Secondary School by building confidence and resilience through the experience of being involved in the programme. Teams of children work collaboratively to develop a real-life product which they then must sell for a profit. Roles need to be assigned within the group: a Project Lead, a Marketing person, a Finance person, a salesperson, etc. The different roles offer the opportunity to identify skills in the pupils that may not have been discovered or encouraged, through normal academic school life; it can be an opportunity for them to shine and thrive. The pupils pitch their idea in a ‘Dragon’s den’ format to a panel of Business Angels. A recent example that Eddie was involved in was with Beaver Road school in Didsbury, where the panel included a person from the school leadership team, Marks and Spencer’s, a representative of Greenpeace, a Director from a financial advisory consultancy and the local MP, and Shadow Secretary of State for Housing. The pitch day took place in a board room environment; pupils came prepared in suitable attire and took it very seriously. The panel are encouraged to give constructive, and often challenging feedback to the children. Teams are reward at the end of the programme, based on different categories such as best marketing, best leadership, best sustainability etc.

The programme offers opportunity for pupils to develop entrepreneurship skills, public speaking skills, selling and pitching experience, problem solving skills, the use of utilising evidence-based foundations, creative skills and inventive skills, as well as team working, resulting in confidence-building and hope for their future lives brought about by an awareness of possibilities. It transcends all abilities, reaching all pupils in an inclusive approach to learning.

Due to the success of the programme, a recent initiative, developed by Natalie Turner from Beaver Road School, called ‘mini-preneur, will engage 7-8-year-old pupils on a similar programme. Also on the horizon is a plan to roll out the programme to Secondary Schools, such is the successful impact of it on pupils as they transit into “big school”.

Eddie Austin became involved because he saw great value in it, he wished it had been around for him when he was at school, he recognises that had the opportunity arisen for him, it would have had a major impact and he wants to give this opportunity to others. “An increased awareness of possibilities for children, motivates them and gives them hope” said Eddie, who hopes that he can support the programme to be rolled out further beyond the 6 Manchester schools that he has already been involved in locally.

Sadly, the founder and instrumental person in the development of the programme passed away recently; we wish to dedicate this piece to Donna Irving, in celebration of her inspiration and hard work that benefited so many children through this programme.

If you are a teacher or businessperson interested in being involved in the programme, you can contact Eddie directly at eddie.austin@operam-education.co.uk to find out how you can influence social mobility with a social enterprise initiative.

Stepping into Business will no longer be operating in its original format, and this may result in emails directed to them bouncing back.