Lenné-Gesamtschule Potsdam - Systematic orientation for work and studies by student companies

This case study was prepared by Norbert Bothe from Lenné-Gesamtschule, edited by Joseph Tixier from the OECD LEED Programme 


Lenné-school is situated in the city centre of Potsdam and offers vocational secondary education (the MSA) for direct transition to the labour market as well as the university entrance qualification (the Abitur) in a seven years programme. The school building is divided in Gesamtschule (comprehensive school, which do not have strict entry requirements unlike Gymnasiums and Realschule) and also at the same location "Grundschule am Humboldtring“ (primary school). In the school year 2013/2014 673 students at the Lenné-school, are taught by 60 teachers, one of which is a special educational needs (SEN) teacher. Each year group is divided into four classes. The number of students in a class ranges from 23 to 28 students.

Lenné-school is an all-day school with day-care provision for students that are studying up to the MSA level (aged 16). Appropriate to the scientific-artistic profile of the school, computer science is taught from year 7 on (when students are 13 years old). It is an optional subject and is taught as well as Biology and Physics and Chemistry from year 9 on (when students are 15). Art is offered on a specified level of performance. The amount of work undertaken in the student-companies can be counted with the compulsory full-time activities.

The school has an elaborated career orientated concept, which is basically coordinated, reflected and developed further through the subject „Economics, Work, Technology" (WAT). In doing so, the work with partners, the job centre, external companies, offers from external parties and also working with the parents is of a high level of importance. The focal point of the concept of the career orientated path, are the students and appropriate biographical work, as well as practical approaches. For students studying to MSA level, the concept for the career path is backed up with the curriculum based on the school related class level. Within this a major amount of value is put on interdisciplinary and subject related work.

For the transition into the final school stage where students prepare to enter university (Abitur), there are study orientated offers of greater importance. Major importance is also placed here on work with extracurricular partners, especially universities. In addition to the biographical oriented approaches in the MSA, the methodological skills of students (for years 11-13) are promoted on a high level through determined study orientation or also in the organisation of complex work processes. A specific feature of the job orientation class options for the senior classes is the support of former students, alumni. Their amount of experience is integrated as expert knowledge and in a conscious way as a transfer of knowledge for the work of school companies. The former students continue to accompany the work of the projects.


The work of the systematic student companies started in 2007, after initiation and counselling by the "Service Department-Student Companies"[1]. The goals of the work of student companies were mainly offering learning arrangements for job and study orientation as a real life experience at a progressive rate. Here, the formation of personal and social skills were the main focus. The establishing of an attractive range of services for students and teachers were of secondary importance.

Within the concept of job orientation of the Lennè-school, the activities of student companies is given an important meaning to immersed career guidance. The commitment of the student-companies generally takes place outside the classes. The reasons for this are organisational issues connected with the school but also to do with contents. The work of student-companies is exclusively project orientated and this cannot easily be integrated into single subjects or combined with different subjects. It is more important that the economic actions of the student companies happen near the school. That means that students and teachers of the Lenné-school are the main customers. However in the context of the compulsory full-time-education path in the MSA level, the activities of the student-companies can be counted as part of full-time education. On this note, there is a connection with normal lessons.

The most important partner of the student-companies is a teacher of the Lenné-school who assesses the pedagogical value of their work. In exchange the teachers must work one less teaching hour. This does not reflect the expenditure of time of two to four clock hours a week.

Of special importance for the work of student-companies is the participation at further education courses, presentations and fairs, for instance the yearly participation at the deGut (Deutsche Gründer- und Unternehmertage: German Founder and Entrepreneur Days) or the "Entrepreneur Week". These are understood as explicit learning places for students not connected with school. It is more connected with team-building processes, as well as the enhancing of skills for presentation and marketing. These events are conceived and organised or arranged by external partners, for example by the "Service Department-Student Companies". All of the student-companies of the Lenné-school have co-operation partners from the real economy. Primarily they serve for the qualification of the school projects and at the same time to be a real economic mirror. Indispensable is the partnership with the school friends´ association. The association on one hand assures the economic actions and occasionally supports the school project by providing material if needed.

The "Service Department-Student Companies" on the other hand is a partner if, for instance a need for counselling exists for new justifications for the work of student companies or as a host for the student companies conferences and experts´ meetings. The student companies of the Lenné-school regularly take part in these events. For four years, the student companies, together with the Service Department, have organised a yearly event under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Economics on the occasion of the "Gründerwoche" (founders week). With these events on one hand the success of the work of the student companies is shown to the public in the fields of economy, politics and administration, on the other hand it is shown that the entrepreneurial spirit is part of the Lenné-school.

To allow the start of the student companies, the teachers, the school board members and the students were advised extensively by the "Service Department-Student Companies". The advice referred particularly to school-organisational and legal aspects but the economical capacity of planned activity between the school and the service department was also checked. Here the service department acts as a business consultancy for student companies. The "Service Department-Student Companies" also provided the school projects with start-up financing, as appropriate for making necessary initial investments.  In the past material support was granted by another support programme for the career path by the Federal Employment Office.

Description of activity / project

At the beginning the media and office student-incorporated company offered school stationary or the digitalisation of teaching materials. Meanwhile the work field changed more to PC- support or computer training. Therefore, the activity of the school company follows the school programme of the Lenné-school which puts an educational focus on the contact of the students with communication technology and media technology. At the beginning the student company worked closely together with the "Service Department-Student Companies" that offered support, especially for (school) organisation, as well as basic legal conditions.[2]

From the start the carrying through of the quality criteria set up through the counselling of the service department and the establishment of the school projects were closely monitored. The quintessential aspect of the criteria is giving students the opportunity to get in touch with their own personal responsibility. That means to put the responsibility for the success of student companies into the young people´s hands and to assign the pedagogical tutor the role of a counsellor. Furthermore it was emphasised that the project should be long-term. In this context the intergenerational consistence (through several years) of student company teams can be seen. Additionally this leads to teaching and learning processes between the students themselves. Another criterion is the orientation of the work of student companies on aspects of effective action and economic activity. The work of student companies at the Lenné-school should take place with ecological and social responsibility.

From the beginning this meant for the media and office student-incorporated company, to work for instance with recycled materials and later to build up disused computers again or to look after social differentiation in the offers for the computer courses. The most important criterion for the counselling and development of the student companies of the Lenné-School were the aspects of economical learning. Besides this, there are on one hand the planned economic actions that need to be checked in their success (business plan). On the other hand the student companies need to be organised like a real economic corporation (simulated internal legal structure of a company, articles).

In the meantime the activity of student companies received regular, strict processes, with at least weekly team meetings for discussing working requirements. A yearly business meeting and business analysis also belong to the established processes of the student companies. External cooperation partners are also invited to this meeting to integrate them in the status of the activities on one hand and for getting, if necessary, advice for the improvement of processes on the other. Normally, external presentations are used for the further education of the staff of student companies. This also applies to the participation at fairs by, for example, stand presentations.  The point is here to represent the student companies in a (semi) professional way or it is about conversation training with interested persons.

The "Service Department-Student Companies" supports the processes of the continual quality development with the help of specific counselling or rather feedback on the activities by the students or offering instruments for the further improvement of work of student companies. Here, for example, the seal of quality "Klasse Unternehmen" which was developed by the business network of the "Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung" (German Children and Youth Foundation) is of particular relevance. This is a step-by-step certification procedure for quality development and protection of student companies. Three out of the four student companies at the Lenné-school applied successfully for this seal of quality.

The success in and outside school, at exhibitions, fairs and presentations, as well as the observed learning effects and self- efficacy experiences led to further formation of student companies at the Lenné-school  (2010: Ton & Film-Schüler-GmbH (sound &film), 2012: Handwerk & Kunst-Schüler-GmbH (craft & arts), 2013: PraLenné-Schüler-Genossenschaft (PraLenne´-student-association)). The project is particular in that participatory and democratic aspects are highlighted and experienced, more so than in normal projects.

In the context of the concept of the career path by the Lenné-school the student companies are the place of the immersed job orientation. The individual potential to the effect of affinity and strength orientation is especially supported here. Furthermore, the work of student companies converts the ideas of individual advancement by a high levelled real-life relevance that is contained in the school concept.


Lenné Potsdam steps for SC



Anchoring of activity / project in the school

The work of student companies would not be possible without the support of the school. The student companies have to be acknowledged as a school event (like lessons) by the school board members, so that the students are safeguarded in their activities. For this purpose the school board members together with the "Service Department-Student Companies" and the school friends´ association signed a cooperation agreement developed by the "Service Department-Student Companies". The commitment with regards to content by the school board members to the work of student companies is secured. Subsequently the school provides the student companies with resources: rooms, furniture and operating costs as well as a teacher for pedagogical attendance.

A special rate of support and appreciation of the work of student companies is shown in that the attending teachers are allowed one less working hour for their work for the student companies. This is not normal practice for the work of student companies in Brandenburg.   A normal practice by the school is to make student advanced trainings and further education for students and attending teachers available by understanding these events as extracurricular learning locations. The students` work in the student companies is certified by the Lenné-school and also appreciated by the school public. These certificates are especially appreciated by the young people because they expect, with their help, a better start into apprenticeship and studies.

Links of activity / project with the external world

Among many other events in which the student companies of the Lenné-school took part, the highlights of their work were:

In addition to these external events, the student companies regularly take part in big school events (school parties, open days, school concerts).  The student company "Ton und Film S-GmbH" has to be especially mentioned because they normally provide and manage technical equipment for these events (light, sound, documentation).

Achievements and impact

Lenné Potsdam International fair

Picture 1: Medien & Büro S-AG; International fair of school companies, Berlin FEZ

The experience with work in the students companies always means an individual profit for the students, referring to the education and the increase of individual, social and methodical skills. This means especially the aspect of the capacity to work in a team and developing conflict handing skills. In conversations the students often name the possibilities of a self-efficient action, as reasons for an actual necessary learning process.

Former students of student-companies report that these skills not only helped them in the arrangement of the transition from school--occupation or school-university but they are also seen as mostly indispensable. Some students confirmed that in their opinion the work they undertook in student-companies made their way into apprenticeship or academic studies easier. The teachers also participate in a significant way to the work of student companies. On one hand, the view of their own teaching activities changes in a way. The teachers see the achievements of their own actions when they teach in an accompanied and not instructive manner. On the other hand, they experience through the co-operation with the external partner a deeper confidence in processes of school opening. If so, another important experience is to safe or strengthen their self-assurance also in difficult situations.

 For the Lenné-school in its entirety, the work of student companies show successes in the opening processes to external partners. These partners were acknowledged as an enrichment of the daily routine in the school over the years and led to changes in the school structure, for example for the career orientation concept. Furthermore, the school through the partly open events by and with student companies came more in the focus of the public and the positive reporting by the media showed a positive image of the school. Altogether, amongst other things, it seems that the work with the student companies has changed the culture of appreciation at the Lenné-school.

At the beginning of the work by student companies the function of the Service Department was mainly to give advice and support. That has changed. Inside the territory of student companies in Brandenburg, the companies of the Lenné-school are meanwhile reference projects for the quality development for student companies in the state. As an example of good practice they serve the Service Department for their academic and external partners as an example for successful work by student companies. The projects are also sporadically used for the knowledge transfer and transfer of experience for workshops or experts´ meeting by the Service Department. (e. g. co- moderation of workshops)

Lenné Potsdam Ton& Film
Picture 2: Ton & Film S-GmbH; Team


Success factors

The work of student companies has become more and more an inherent part of the school programme and the job orientation concept, which the school represents to the outside. An important aspect here is the cooperation of student companies with partners of the real economy, to win experts reports outside school on one hand, and for the support and growing professionalization of the work of student companies on the other hand. Success factors are the observed in learning and motivation of the students. These are mainly self-effectiveness and the development of personal and social skills. These skills are experienced in practical situations by the young people. When young people become experts who can train their own teachers (and this offer is also asked after), learning effects and success are built up. In a normal lesson this cannot be offered. Of course, a successful student company does not work without the support of the school management and the commitment of the teachers, who accompany these projects pedagogically. While doing so, the teachers experience a change in their understanding of a role in society: they are companions and coaches or management consultants with a clear target. The young people should act and work as independently as possible (and teachers possibly allow failures as well).

The success of the work of student companies would not have been possible without the support by the nationwide „Service Department-Student Companies". The ideas that the Service Department gave were very important for the Lenné-Gesamtschule. Later it was also important to have the guarantee that the student company -counsellors would always help when there were problems or questions. After the start-up phase of the student companies,  the regular offers of the Service department for further training and education for young people, as well as giving teachers the  possibility  to get in contact and exchange information with other student companies became more important (especially as a yardstick for the own work). Furthermore the Service Department is indispensable in the mediation of events between student companies and representatives of politics and economy. That is why these events carry weight because they are especially suitable to give the students self-efficacy and sense of achievement.


Lenné Potsdam Dehoga
Picture 3: PraLenne S-GmbH, Brandenburg Trainee day of DEHOGA, Potsdam


Obstacles and ways to overcome them

For the school and the pedagogues, the establishment of this success meant processes of adjustment. The school management and the colleagues had to be convinced that with the work of student companies, changes of the school organisation would happen. Therefore (partly) hour contingents for the work of the accompanying pedagogues were created.

It had to be asked for some understanding to excuse students and accompanying pedagogues from classes for the daily work in student companies but also for the participation in events, for example of the "Service Department-Student Companies".  Last but not least a welcoming culture could be created for the external partners of the student companies’ work and for the performances of student company’s events at the Lenné-school, which at the beginning was not a matter of course.

[1] The “Service Department-Student Companies” (Servicestelle-Schülerfirmen) is the nationwide student company portal for Brandenburg and is funded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, The Ministry for Economic Affairs and European Affairs as well as the German Childrens and Youth Foundation. The Servicestelle-Schülerfirmen is a field of work of the GmbH, a free supporting organisation that mainly works on education projects in Brandenburg.


[2] compare Figure 1: Procedural diagram for establishing a student company