When I set up Enabling Enterprise as part of a team of teachers back in 2009, we were responding to a problem that we felt acutely in our classrooms: that we simply weren’t equipping our children and young people with the broader skills they would need to really thrive in the rest of their lives.
The challenge was reflected beyond our classrooms: the CBI regularly called for broader essential skills like teamwork, problem-solving and creativity to be built alongside the more traditional academics. They had been doing so since their landmark report in 1989 and so regularly had this call been made that the challenge of building these skills had begun to seem intractable.
A decade of progress
What I learned with my own students was that essential skills like presenting, creativity and leadership weren’t innate. No one was born able to present brilliantly, or to mind map, or to negotiate effectively. These were skills that were as teachable as driving or playing a musical instrument.
Breaking down these skills into teachable steps and then training and equipping teachers with the tools to build them has always been core to the Enabling Enterprise approach. That turned into programmes that combined teacher training and support, skills assessment, Challenge Days, regular lesson-time Projects, and Trips to Employers.
Since 2009, our work has grown from a single class to 96,000 children and young people who completed our programmes in the last year alone. This was made possible due to the hard work of more than 4,000 teachers who delivered the Enabling Enterprise programmes in their classrooms, and 130 employer partners who hosted groups of those students into their workplaces.
The evidence showed real impact too: 93% of our teachers saw tangible improvements in their students’ skills as a result of the programme. Our students were making an average of 55% more progress in their essential skill development against those who had not previously completed the programme.
A greater need
Two years ago, we took stock of where we were. We had seen that it was perfectly possible for every student to build their essential skills, and that our aspirations for what they could achieve should be much higher. We were seeing whole schools where every student was building their essential skills, week in and week out - putting them onto a completely different trajectory for success.
The challenge was how to take this beyond a small number of exceptional schools and to make this the norm for children and young people across the whole country.
In 2017, The Missing Piece was published - a book that captured the scale of the challenge, but also what we had learnt over the previous eight years about what schools were doing who were systematically transforming those skills. It drew out the six principles that reflected great practice in building essential skills, drawing a parallel with how schools approach building literacy and numeracy: keeping the language simple and consistent; starting young and keeping going; measuring skills; focusing tightly on the next step of learning; practicing skills in many contexts; and bringing them to life by linking with employers.
In parallel, we worked with more than sixty organisations to test and refine the Skills Builder Framework. This Framework, now familiar to many, takes the eight essential skills and breaks them down into 15 teachable, assessable steps – from the expectations of 3-year-olds through to mastery.
The Skills Builder Partnership
These efforts came together in the launch of Skills Builder in May 2018. It was fantastic to receive enthusiastic endorsement from Paul Drechsler, then President of the CBI, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, and Dame Julia Cleverdon, Co-Founder of Step Up to Serve.
Crucially though, the Skills Builder Framework and the common language and shared outcomes that it offered was just the beginning. What brought it to life was the growing partnership of organisations around it – educators, employers and other skills-building organisations.
At writing, the Partnership now numbers more than 480 schools and colleges, 130 employers and 40 skills-building organisations – more than 650 organisations in total. The diversity is remarkable. Among the educators there are nurseries, rural primary schools, city-centre secondary schools and colleges, as well as special schools and alternative provision settings in every corner of the country. The employers cover every industry – including professional services, manufacturing, airports, hospitals, retailers and a lot more. The skills-building organisations include national charities like Business in the Community, the National Literacy Trust, and Teach First as well as smaller local partners and providers.
What brings all of these organisations together is the knowledge that there is a part of all of our missions that is common: to ensure that every child and young person builds the essential skills to succeed.
The Next Chapter
As Enabling Enterprise now approaches its tenth birthday in June 2019, we are pleased and proud of what has been achieved so far. We now want to take everything we have learnt, and apply that to growing and supporting the Skills Builder Partnership to harness our collective efforts to take the building of essential skills together.
We will be announcing our next three-year strategy in full at events in May and June but there are three key elements:
- Growing the Partnership: We will continue to train and support schools and colleges, and we will be investing to grow their number to more than 2,000 over the next three years. Alongside that, we will be working with more employers to deepen their engagement with the Partnership, and using the Skills Builder tools in their own employability outreach. Finally, we will be continuing to grow the number of other skills-building organisations and helping them to embed this in their work.
- Building the foundations for collective impact: We will invest in building the central capacity to support the Partnership, to drive our common agenda and to share best practice amongst our partners.
- Equipping everyone with the tools to build essential skills: We are already undertaking a rebuild of our curriculum offer and our core platform, as well as our assessment tools. This will make the tools and resources more accessible and usable to a range of partners than ever before.
As we focus our efforts on the Skills Builder Partnership, we’ve made the decision to retire our existing Enabling Enterprise website and use the Skills Builder website as our primary voice. We’re excited about the next chapter towards our mission, and grateful for all of the generous support to get us to this point.
Through the Skills Builder Partnership, we have the opportunity to ensure that one day, everyone builds the essential skills to thrive. We hope you will join us.