Queen Ethelburga’s starts building business brains early at its King’s Magna Middle School. The Head Joseph Birchall discusses how this innovative programme works

At Queen Ethelburga’s Business and Economics are two of our most popular subjects at both GCSE and A level. We also have long established and very successful Young Enterprise programmes that have run in both Year 6 and Year 12. However, there still remained a gap for more business education, and back in 2018 we introduced this as an option for our students in Years 7 to 9, within our extensive enrichment programme. This proved to be very popular, and it quickly became apparent that there was a need to extend this provision within the formal curriculum.

In September 2020 we introduced a new Business and Enterprise programme as an optional subject for students in Year 9. The new course is a standalone programme of study for two hours a week in Year 9. At this point in a student’s educational journey, the fast-paced route of GCSEs and A levels are in sight, and the importance of supporting student aspirations and fuelling their curiosity in their future career options needs to be harnessed.

Queen Ethelburga's on enterprise education
QE’s programme has a clear focus on building entrepreneurial and financial skills, alongside practical enterprise knowhow

This new programme prepares students for study across the full range of social sciences: GCSE Business, BTEC Enterprise and GCSE Economics. It is also important to think about skillset and the personal skills that are essential for future career success – including entrepreneurship, collaboration, ICT, communication and critical thinking. We also look at life skills, and how these integrate into study. Queen Ethelburga’s students develop skills in finance, an identified key area across the Key Stage 4 courses which students find challenging. A small team of experienced GCSE Business teachers put together the new programme of study to support the objectives of the course. 

All students study finance for one hour per week, with the course featuring a wide variety of practical tasks designed to develop deep understanding of the key concepts required for GCSE. For example, one project has involved students researching setting up their own online t-shirt business to develop an understanding of fixed and variable costs, calculating break-even as well as their gross and net profit. These are important skills in a business and enterprise context, but also with valuable practical lessons in money management and budgeting.

Running parallel to the finance unit, students are introduced to enterprise through analysing famous entrepreneurs and learning the key foundations of enterprise – from business set-up through to marketing. Students analyse their own enterprise skills and use practical activities such as the marshmallow challenge to develop team-building skills. These are all skills which sit within a transferable skillset.

While it is too early to measure the impact of the course on formal academic results, the students have continued to develop their entrepreneurial skills”

Over 80% of the students who have graduated from the Year 9 programme have gone on to study business or economics courses in Year 10, with others expecting to take up a one-year GCSE in Year 11. While it is too early to measure the impact on formal academic results, the students have continued to develop their entrepreneurial skills – for example through the paper-clip challenge (where one student managed to trade their paperclip up to a set of LED strip lights in just two weeks!)

Moving into its second year of operation, the course has grown in popularity and is currently studied by 87 students – which accounts for 74% of the year group. As educators, we should all be striving to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs, and the earlier this education can start, the better.

Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate qe.org

Further reading: Royal Hospital School on women in STEM