Students, leaders and entrepreneurs

arms-up-1024At Devonport High School for Boys, business and entrepreneurialism is at the heart of the curriculum and wider school life. This provides obvious benefits for the students involved, but the students’ entrepreneurialism has also been harnessed for the benefit of the school itself.


Devonport High School for Boys is an 11-18 grammar school and academy located in Plymouth, although it draws students from an area that extends well beyond its immediate location. The school stays true to its mantra ‘everyone succeeds’: attainment is consistently high. In recent years, the school has undergone significant expansion with a number of new building projects including the construction of an AstroTurf pitch. The school was awarded ‘outstanding’ status by Ofsted in 2011.

NOR: 1150 (2nd quintile)
Girls: 3.5% (lowest quintile) Boys: 96.5% SEN: 0.8% (lowest quintile)
FSM/PPI: 7.5% (lowest quintile).

Reason for action

The school is very conscious that it is developing students for the future. Their mission statement states their aim: to ‘support individuals in our school community to enhance their prowess and shape their future.’ As part of that they recognise the importance of providing students with real life experience and entrepreneurial skills.


In Redesigning Schooling 2 – What kind of teaching for what kind of learning? [Full pamphlet available to members] Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas argue that learning should be authentic and not contrived. When this is the case students are likely to be more engaged and also develop skills that will be useful outside of the school gates.

They draw on Harvard’s David Perkins, who described the tensions between learning in the real world and in school in his book Making Learning Whole. He describes how schools can authentically teach what he calls ‘the whole game of learning’, claiming that ‘elementitis’ (breaking up complex subjects into chunks) and ‘aboutitis’ (teaching about interesting ideas rather than seeing them in practice) do not help students understand fully, and conspire to keep young people away from the rich experience of real world learning.

Many academics have argued that with the ever increasing pace of change in the world it is important that students are able to think like entrepreneurs. For example, Yong Zhao argues that students must be taught to think independently and entrepreneurially if they are to thrive in tomorrow’s world.


Entrepreneurialism is built throughout the school both formally and informally. Students have numerous opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial skills in authentic situations. Broadly, these fit into two strands: formal and informal.

Enterprise forms a part of the curriculum in years 7, 8 and 9. It is taught primarily by ICT & business teachers and, in year 9, forms part of the GCSE business course. Students are given the opportunity to set up and run a small social enterprise. Students are taken through all the stages of setting up and running a business and are then allowed to do so in year 9. To facilitate this they are provided with a small budget.

The students have developed numerous businesses, some of which have been successful and others not. Indeed, some businesses have continued to run after the course has finished. The project provides students with excellent real world learning opportunities and enthuses many with a keen entrepreneurial spirit.

The school also regularly brings in local businesses and gets entire year groups to work on specific real world projects. In such cases, the businesses often pose a problem to the students that they are currently dealing with and students then work to try and develop their own solutions.

Recently, for example, the manager of the local McDonalds store asked students how they could make the store more cycle friendly for customers, as a new cycle superhighway was being built nearby. Students spent time developing their ideas and then pitched them to McDonalds’ staff.

As part of the house system, students are also given enterprise specific roles and the opportunity to go head-to-head in a Dragons’ Den style pitching competition. The house system also enables students to take on a variety of leadership roles that are designed to further their entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

The school also has a wide variety of less formalised ways to engage in entrepreneurial activity. Notably, Devonport values digital leadership highly. As part of this students are able to apply for project funding if they identify a problem they believe they might be able to solve.

Recently, a student realised that the school was not tracking house points efficiently. He applied to run a project to solve it and was given the opportunity to do so. He set up an online system that enabled house points to be shared, coding his own software in the process. The student even integrated a twitter feed and is now planning to sell it on after its success at Devonport.

Recently, a student realised that the school was not tracking house points efficiently. He applied to run a project to solve it and was given the opportunity to do so.

There are clear benefits here for both the school and the student. The ad hoc nature of the project support reflects the reality of the business world, where problems arise to be solved and opportunities present themselves in a random way.

In reality

With the current economic pressures, it is essential that schools can raise the aspirations of the young people in the future. The challenge for DHSB is to ensure that they stimulate, engage and empower their students and staff to be creative and innovative in a time of tighter constraints.

It is important to note that pupils’ significant success is not only being reached through academic metrics, but by ensuring that students are prepared for the world of work with the skills and attributes to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.


  • Students are able to take calculated risks and develop a ‘can do’ attitude.
  • The school benefits from engagement with local employers.
  • Students are provided with authentic learning situations.
  • The school benefits from newly developed technologies, such as the online house point sharing program.

What next?

  • Develop more opportunities for students to have access to enterprise opportunities as part of an Enterprise award scheme that would run annually at the school.
  • Develop more opportunities for outside speakers from industry to work in partnership with the school.


This article is taken from our Redesigning Schooling in Action series. The series includes case studies from SSAT member schools that focus on five areas:

  • Teaching for learning
  • Principled curriculum design
  • Principled assessment design
  • Courageous leadership for professional accountability
  • The new professionalism.

SSAT member? You have access to more than 20 case studies in the member area of our website. Find out more here.

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