Altnaharra is a small, rural school in Sutherland. There are five pupils in the school from primary two up to primary seven. Teaching staff at the school always look for innovative ways to teach the curriculum that will be interesting to all pupils and encourage inter-disciplinary and collaborative learning.
The children have established a social enterprise that sells midge and tick repellent soaps. The project started as a science project that the pupils enjoyed, and has developed into a successful social enterprise that links in with the school’s development plan to encourage entrepreneurship, and skills for learning, life and work.
By running their social enterprise, pupils have had to market their product which has involved designing leaflets and posters and writing letters to local businesses. This means that pupils are developing core skills: literacy; communication; working with others; using information technology; creativity; negotiation and problem solving. Once the youngsters were actively trading they had to set up an accounts system and have been working with money, all of which improves numeracy skills.
Because this is a follow url social enterprise, the pupils are learning to be Responsible Citizens; they have researched a number of local ‘good causes’ and unanimously decided to support Cash4Kidz so that disadvantaged children from the local community will receive a Christmas present.
How it developed
The pupils enjoyed learning about the science behind making soap and realised that by researching the ingredients further, to include a midge repellent, they could develop a product that would be genuinely useful to those living in and visiting their area. After discussion the children decided that they would like to help others using the profits of their soaps and researched a number of charities before choosing the Cash4Kidz initiative as their designated social aim.
Because there are only five pupils in the school both the children and their teacher realised that they could not simply rely on parents to buy their soaps if they wanted to make a profit, so they would have to be more creative in their outlook. The children came up with the idea of selling their products to local lodges, hotels and B&Bs so that their soap could reach a wider audience. This sparked a major letter writing and marketing campaign and their hard work has paid off as they have received orders for more than 70 soaps in just a few months!
Outcomes and what pupils gained
Pupils participating in the social enterprise have to be prepared to take full responsibility for running and developing their businesses. As a result their confidence is boosted and they are developing a range of skills that will help them in the future.
Through social enterprise they are thinking about new and creative ways of doing things, regularly evaluating the results and using that information to make important decisions that affect the future success of their business.
They have learned to listen to each other and value others opinions. They are encouraging one another to think differently, seek the highest standards from themselves and each other and to lead the action. Pupils are developing a ‘can do, will do’ attitude. They don’t shy away from problems but confront them and find solutions. They have developed great team skills, take responsibility for their own work and hold each other accountable. They show initiative and drive, communicate well with each other, the wider school and community and they use practical skills to develop their business. Their IT skills allow them to make their business more successful and to reach wider audiences.
Their social enterprise is not only helping them to develop skills for learning, life and work but is allowing them to help others. They are being empowered, changing other people’s lives and changing their own.
Enterprise and Employability Skills
- Recognising need and opportunity
- Taking the initiative
- Adaptability + Resilience
- Team Working and leadership
- Setting and meeting roles and expectations
- Self Awareness, optimism and open mind set
- Evaluating risk to inform decision making
- Determination to succeed
- Influencing and negotiating
- Planning for personal development
- Building confidence
- Determination to achieve high standards
- Show initiative
- Actively pursue objectives
- Exert Influence
- Value others’ contribution
As this social enterprise is run across year groups there is a sustainable element built in with the younger pupils moving up into more responsible roles as they move up the school.
The class teacher has recently gone on maternity leave but this has not deterred the children from continuing with their business and they have shown both the cluster head and their cover teacher how their social enterprise works so that they can keep trading.
The children are committed to supporting young people in their local area and have produced a genuinely useful product for those living in and visiting the village. Local hotels are also delighted to use and sell the soaps which are proving very popular with their guests.
The support from the Social Enterprise is free and initial start-up costs were provided by the school fund as this was initially part of a science project. Profits are now re-invested back into the business.
The Social Enterprise Academy
The Social Enterprise Academy provided a range of resources including access to their team and tutors (who are all social entrepreneurs), CPD for teachers, templates and examples of business plans, skills pack for young people, a step-by-step guide to running a social enterprise and materials linking the programme to the Experiences and Outcomes of a Curriculum for Excellence.
Mrs Ruth Adams, Cluster Head Lairg and Altnaharra Primary Schools
Ms Lesley Morrison, Class Teacher (currently on maternity leave)
Ms Karen Hood (maternity cover teacher)
Altnaharra Primary Schoool
Telephone: 01549 411244
Other useful information
What is social enterprise?
Social enterprises are dynamic businesses with a social purpose that reinvest their profits for community benefit. It is a great way of doing business, contributes to a stronger economy and community and often promotes greener ways of working.
Well known examples of social enterprises include The Big Issue, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, and the fair trade company Divine Chocolate.
The sector includes co-operatives, credit unions, housing associations, development trusts, social firms, and community businesses.
Social enterprises operate across a diverse range of areas including: fair trade, recycling, catering and hospitality, renewable energy, health, social care, leisure, community transport, housing and childcare.
So what does social enterprise look like in a school?
They are connected to their community – School social enterprises have explicit social and/or environmental aims and their profits are used for this purpose. This can either be locally or linked to a community abroad.
They are entrepreneurial – They have a clear trading activity and are directly involved in producing goods or providing services to a market.
They are led by young people – They are driven and run by pupils with support from teachers and parents. There will also be awareness of the social enterprise across the whole school.
They are dynamic – School social enterprises aspire to make a positive and responsive change to people’s lives.
Social Enterprise Academy – helps develop excellence in and understanding of leadership and management in social enterprises
Social Enterprise Scotland – the lobbying and campaign voice of Scottish Social Enterprises
Senscot – the social entrepreneur network for Scotland