Fraser Newham, Assistant Head Academic at Merchiston Castle School, reflects on the value of Entrepreneurship teaching – both for developing skills and finding the next Steve Jobs

Traditionally, entrepreneurial life stories tend to stress the role of hard knocks over school study on the road to success. Think Steve Jobs in the ’70s, dropping out of Reed College in his first year to seek enlightenment in the ashrams of South Asia, before returning to California – initially, they say, still in his kaftan and beads – to found Apple in his parents’ garage. 

Yet university-level and, increasingly, school-level Entrepreneurial Education is now seen as a key strategy to prepare the next generation for the challenges ahead. There are compelling political and economic grounds for this: across the world, as economies transform, governments have identified Entrepreneurship’s stress on problem-solving, creative thinking and a can-do mindset as a way to prepare young people to perform and, better yet, create jobs that do not yet exist.

“Our learners are acquiring transferable problem-solving skills which they can apply across their learning and lives”

As an internationally facing boarding school with strong links to global business, here at Merchiston Castle we have been particularly keen to build this aspect of our offering. Taught in school as an academic discipline with a rich experiential element, Entrepreneurship has quickly grown into one of our most popular Sixth Form options, where pupils can earn an A Level equivalent BTEC qualification over two years.

The course is lively, stretching and fun to teach. Units of study include the Entrepreneurial Mindset, Strategies to Raise Finance, Devising a Marketing Plan for a new product and Enterprise Leadership skills. The programme also requires learners to model entrepreneurial skills through their work while learning, with the support of their teachers, how to engage responsibly with project risk.

Sixth Form Head Shots , Merchiston Castle School
Entrepreneurship teaches skills for work, and for onward life, says Merchiston Castle School

To research the Entrepreneurial Mindset, for example, learners are grouped according to their individual interest. This year we have teams focusing on property and finance, sports management and luxury products. Each group has approached relevant entrepreneurs from our extensive alumni body, asking them to be case studies. We have been blown away by the generosity of these individuals with their time and it is great to see the satisfaction the pupils derive from the real-world aspects of this process.

And of course, throughout, our learners are also acquiring transferable problem-solving skills which they can apply across their learning and lives, whether that means taking an iterative approach to their academic studies and next-step progressions or driving the development of a growth mindset more broadly,

At Merchiston, we see Entrepreneurial Education is an exciting and important field for school leaders to consider, both in developing our young people and fostering positive attitudes to entrepreneurship. As we think of the challenges of our day – rebuilding after the pandemic, innovating our way beyond the Climate Crisis, or, here in the UK, levelling up and forging a path post-EU – it is a safe bet that this field will only continue to grow. The next Steve Jobs, in other words, might not be quite so quick to swap his books for his backpack.

Merchiston Castle School

Further reading: Mayfield School on the importance of agile thinking