Tom Lawson, Headmaster of Eastbourne College discusses two aspects of the school’s approach to developing entrepreneurship in its pupils

The enterprise paradox is an obvious one. Good schools have always imparted knowledge with the authority of their curriculum and teachers. So budding entrepreneurs have traditionally needed to break the shackles of top-down teaching by leaving school or dropping out of university to pursue their disruptive, maybe lucrative, original ideas. The best schools, of course, have worked hard to counter this with an openness to their pupils’ passions: a determination not to stifle imagination and daring.

We know we have entrepreneurs among the pupils at Eastbourne College, not least because of the progress of our Young Enterprise team two years ago in winning local, area and regional titles. However, the lockdowns put all that enterprise on hold.

Below are two ways in which the College is supporting pupils to develop skills they will need as entrepreneurs. I have chosen these examples as a deliberate contrast – one very structured and taught (so within the wheelhouse of schools’ traditional method) and one that is pupil-led, organic, and exciting for its unpredictability.

Eastbourne College on entrepreneurship in action
Eastbourne College supports students who want to acquire CISI’s Fundamentals of Financial Services Qualification


Each year we enjoy guiding a group of self-selected and very motivated pupils through the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment’s (CISI) Fundamentals of Financial Services Qualification. This is not a course for those who want to find the secret to a quick buck on the advice of someone on TikTok who opines on ‘crypto’ prospects while seated on the bonnet of a rented Ferrari. Those that thrive – and thrive they do – are those with an entrepreneurial spirit who appreciate that finance is a vital (and inevitable) part of developing ideas and opportunities in any industry. They recognise that it is just part of what they need to know if they are to be a responsible and informed commercial citizen in the future. In that context, it is always reassuring to see the ready acceptance they have of the importance of integrity and ethics in protecting a systemically important industry. The training they receive is something which, perhaps, previous generations could have benefited from.

The College’s students participated in a creative ideas project to make Eastbourne a more vibrant place to be

Eastbourne to Eden

Way back in 2018, College pupils, and the maintained-school partners we support through the Eastbourne Schools Partnership, met to explore the idea that our town’s young people had to make Eastbourne a more vibrant place to be. The project kicked off with a creative consultation where young people shared their perceptions of the town, heard by professionals working across different sectors, to work together on creative solutions. Individual schools then focused on developing specific ideas, returned for an interim meeting and advice session and a final presentation to industry and Council leaders.

This entrepreneurial initiative grabbed the attention of Eastbourne Borough Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and Lord and Lady Lucas. Sir Tim Smit from the Eden Project was so inspired by the engagement and commitment of our young people that he began to consider bringing Eden to Eastbourne. A working party of young people from across the Partnership are now highly engaged with this vision to revitalise the town’s green arteries and will continue to act as advisers.

As both these examples show, there is a tremendous range of method to encourage enterprise and life skills in schools. All you need is a bit of disruptive thinking of your own and excellent, willing staff. Trust me that our young people will rise to the challenge.

Eastbourne College

Further reading: Benenden School on building an entrepreneurship mindset