Saturday, 26 January 2008

Jessica’s Story

My colleague Christine Marsden, Curriculum Development Manager in the Education Business Partnership Team, told me this story last week...

"Jessica is a year 11 student at South Leeds High School who recently took part in an enterprise run by the Education Business Partnership team entitled ‘Cashpoints the Money Management Game’. This runs over a whole school day and requires students to work in teams of 6 running a company for the day. They work alongside a business adviser who offers advice and support on running the company and gives detailed feedback about each individual’s performance after each of the five rounds. Each student takes on a job role for which they receive a wage. They have to pay for their house, food, utilities each round and budget for their non-essential items such as a car, holiday and clothes as the game progresses.
Jessica clearly did not want to take part in the event informing us on her arrival ‘I don’t do business studies so I shouldn’t be here!’ She sat with her team and waited to begin but the body language indicated that she had no intention of joining in willingly. It was evident that Jessica had either got up in a hurry and didn’t want to be late or that she had already made up her mind that going back to bed after a quick exit from school was on the cards as turned up with her pyjamas under her coat! When asked why she actually had come in her pyjamas she replied with a grin ‘well there wasn’t much point getting dressed if I was going to go back to bed was there!’

Indeed she was clear that if it turned out to be ‘rubbish’ she was going to go home at break.
It was however only a matter of time before Jessica began to engage with the process and was duly elected company manager. She listened to her business adviser and acted on his advice, slowly taking over responsibility for the running of the company.

Break came and went. Jessica was not only still in the hall but more importantly had forgotten what time it was and that she was at school. For her she was at work, trying to keep her company afloat and manage her staff. Jessica kept her business adviser entertained all day, challenging him on his advice and often choosing to run with her own of other team members’ ideas. By lunch she had made a decision as to who should be made redundant, justifying her decision in a very business like manner. She had made a radio announcement on the microphone in front of her peers, a real achievement for her to speak in public and by the end of the day had won the main prize of ‘entrepreneur of the day’. She even gave up the privilege to leave early despite pressure from her peers to do so.

Jessica was a star. She, like many other students who take part in such programmes, had a sense of purpose. Jessica wanted to prove to herself that she could do it. The powerful message that she went away with was that she was ‘employable’ and had skills which she could transfer from her learning into a work environment. She has now agreed to talk to teachers about the event at a major Teacher Professional Development Placement event in March, a real achievement for any young person.

For the teachers this proved that by incorporating a creative approach to learning through the curriculum, students will become more engaged. This event raised their expectations with comments such as ‘I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had seen it with my own eyes’ as students cooperated effectively in their teams to ‘I cant get him to write anything in class without a struggle’ said of a boy reflecting on his learning and setting targets based on his adviser feedback."

This story proves once again the power of fantastic provision which engages and stimulates young people to learn. Everyone has the potential to be brilliant and Jessica's story shows us what we can do when we think differently and really connect with our young learners.

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