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NFER research supports Social Enterprise as a way to reconnect disengaged students

By 25th February 2015 No Comments

The National Federation of Educational Research (NFER) has released some important findings as part of a wider report which examines the impact of school learning for 14-16 year olds who are in danger of becoming disengaged or losing interest in their school-based studies. Their research includes a case study demonstrating the value of the Social Enterprise Qualification (SEQ), a global qualification which accredits social enterprise learning, in helping to reengage these young people.

In the case study, Gloucestershire-based secondary school Forest Academy delivered RIO’s SEQ to a group of Year 10 students who were at risk of becoming disengaged with school studies. The aim of the case study was to find out if the SEQ helped inspire this targeted group of individuals. The findings of this contributed to the overall research carried out by NFER, to explore how school-based learning programmes can be used to reconnect with these young people.

The Year 10 students from Forest Academy wanted to address the amount of litter around their school and in the streets. They decided to create a social enterprise selling various items out of recycled materials, thus addressing the need, taking active steps to resolve it and learning about the principles of social enterprise.

After completing the SEQ at Bronze and Silver Level (a Level 1 and Level 2 award respectively on the Qualifications and Credit Framework), mentors delivering the qualification found that the students became actively involved in their SEQ project, and that they demonstrated genuine enthusiasm in tackling their social issue, as they could see the benefits of resolving it. They also thought that the SEQ taught them skills which would be useful when entering work, such as business and enterprise skills. This enthusiasm transferred to the remainder of their learning within school and they felt more positive about the rest of their school work.

Karen Rodgers, Library and Resource Centre Manager from Forest Academy delivered the SEQ to the young people. She said, “Our students really enjoyed researching ideas for their SEQ. The SEQ taught Maths and English study in a fun and exciting way through real life experiences, helping our students to develop a host of skills along the way. As part of their own mini businesses, they immersed themselves in recycling, production and selling items, producing quality products. They quickly grasped the concepts of ethical trading and learnt many values which they can take forward in their adult life.”

The structure of the SEQ makes learning more ‘real’ and practical-based, giving the young people a chance to take part in practical activities where they create their own social enterprise, managing budgets, coordinating all marketing and promotion and the actual creation and selling of their products.

Individuals identify a social or environmental issue that they want to address, and create a social enterprise that aims to help resolve that issue.

Paula Winzar, Lead Developer of SEQ at RIO, said, “Setting up social enterprise projects in schools which make a real difference uses Maths and English skills as well as entrepreneurialism, marketing and budgeting. These young people understood the relevance of Maths and English learning to the real world of work and engaged more in their studies as a result which was a real breakthrough.”

Hands-on learning such as the SEQ proved useful because of the qualification’s flexibility. It also takes traditional subjects within the curriculum such as English and Mathematics, and demonstrates how what they learn in these classes can be used in real world settings. In the SEQ, individuals draw on their Mathematics and English abilities as they develop their social enterprise, demonstrating the importance of these core subjects not only as part of the curriculum but in the world of work. Because these more traditional subjects are often areas of struggle for young people, the SEQ provides a way for them to develop their abilities in these subjects and realise their relevance outside the school gates.

The Social Enterprise Qualification was developed by the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) in partnership with SFEDI Awards in 2011, and was officially launched in the UK in February 2012. Since then, it has been used across the world in countries including China and Uganda. The SEQ encourages and promotes positive change, either for the person undertaking the qualification or their community.

The SEQ has proven extremely valuable across a multitude of settings, reaching groups of individuals who are often harder to engage. It is a transferable qualification which has in the past been successfully delivered in settings which include secondary schools, youth centres, Premier League football clubs and even prisons. The qualification is available at Bronze, Silver and Gold, which are a Level 1 award, Level 2 award and Level 2 certificate on the QCF.

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