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Uhre Friskole - Profile of an Entrepreneurial school

Introduction

Uhre Friskole is a private school started in 2005. Before this the school was Uhre Skole, a public school. As there were many small schools closing all over the country due to budget savings a group of local people formed a taskforce to discuss the future of the school. This resulted in the closing of the public school and the beginning of Uhre Friskole as a private school.

When the school was established in 2005 it had 135 pupils from class 0 – 8 and today there are 183 pupils from class 0 – 9. There are 28 employees at the school and twenty of these are involved in teaching as either teachers or resource teachers.

Uhre Friskole is situated in Jutland in a small village with only 200 inhabitants. Many of the pupils live in the surrounding area but we also have a lot of children from the closest town Brande. The area is dominated by a few major companies and many small entrepreneurs and businesses. It is primarily a middle class population. Ikast-Brande Kommune (our local county) has won the first prize for being the best county in Denmark according to business conditions and establishing and developing companies.

The local community is very supportive to the school. In fact it has always been a tradition at the school to use the local environment, the community and local companies as partners in educational matters and this tradition has only been reinforced during the years as a private school. Uhre Friskole has also proved to be one of the leading schools in Denmark regarding entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial education. One of the reasons for this success might be the tradition in using the local community and not being afraid to make new contacts.

The school management enforces this by being well-connected to the local community and town counsel and giving priority to developing this network. Uhre Friskole can also be seen as a business that needs to attract pupils and must have a good reputation and be well-known in the community. Uhre Friskole promotes itself by having high educational standards in regards to the national curriculum, focusing on the pupil’s learning and including entrepreneurship as a way of achieving this.

Uhre - mindmap
Mind map of our Culture. Organizational tool.

 

Rationale

Innovation and entrepreneurship were words that were heard more often in the news and in television shows in the mid-2000s. Denmark needed a change from being a society that focused primarily on knowledge and lesser on how to use this knowledge. In our county Ikast-Brande Kommune with many self-employed businesses and small companies this way of thinking is regarded very reasonable and therefore the local businesses were very interested in working with the schools in achieving this.

Our school is located in a small community, where local self-employed businesses are a majority. The whole of the county has got the same profile. Most of the youth leaves the area to get an education other places and most doesn’t return to settle down after graduation. This has been a problem for many years and the solution seemed to be Entrepreneurship. In 2007 the politicians and cooperate sector made it a priority to get the youth to settle and work in this part of Denmark.

Part of the plan was and is to give the children and young people a better and more relevant education throughout primary- and secondary schools. In May 2007 several politicians, business owners and teachers were gathered for a 24 hour camp to find a way to introduce Entrepreneurship and make sure there could be established a partnership between schools and cooperate life. The first teachers got an education in Entrepreneurship from the county. There were 5 schools in the project back then and the goal is to incorporate all schools in the county.

Even though we are a private school, we were invited to be part of this project. August 2007 we started as an Entrepreneurial school. The decision to become an entrepreneurial school came from the school board who saw this as an opportunity to the continual development of the school’s profile with high educational standards and developing the whole child to a person that is able to take an active part in his community and contribute to society.

Description of the project.

Our goal is to be a school where entrepreneurship is integrated at every level. Where the pupils gets an education that is meaningful, of high standard and let them become skilled young people capable of participating in the local and global workforce as be accomplished citizens.

In terms of our development as an Entrepreneurial school.

In the beginning we received help from a Norwegian teacher. Her way to entrepreneurship became our way. She told us to take it slow in the beginning. Too focus on getting familiar with the methods and the theory. From the beginning we found partners outside the school. We had one or two Entrepreneurial projects the first year. They were founded in the ideas of the pupils. One of the ideas was: The pupils age 10-12 needed a place to go after school ended. They designed a youth club, found premises and adult supervision. They made a budget for the whole operation. The teacher facilitated tools and strategies. They didn’t know how to do a budget. The teacher made sure they learned about it. The project was later presented by the pupils to the school board, headmaster and locale forces. It has existed since.

The one or two peaks per year were later on changed by the school administration so that every teacher and staff member should participate in one project per year. A year later the school administration changed it to two project per teacher or staff member. Today our teachers and other staffs participate in at least two projects and often more. And we also see them "twist" their every-day-teaching and making sure it is relevant for the pupils.

As a private school it is the school board that decides on the profile of the school. This is often in collaboration with the principal. The didactic method of the school is the principal and vice principals area of expertise. We quickly learned that entrepreneurial teaching became a frame for many of our other methods such as collaboration, acknowledging the children as a resource, creativity, innovative learning and focus on curriculum. We also saw many new skills to gain from entrepreneurship such as more motivated pupils, new partnerships with the locals, a more open school, and lessons became meaningful and real to the pupil that saw a purpose in learning.

In the beginning three teachers became process consultants in Entrepreneurship and innovation at our school. Their task was and still is to involve teachers and pupils in innovative and entrepreneurial education. They seek inspiration and helps along processes in projects both in this school and other schools in the area. They provide materials and tools to innovate and they participate in regional and national conferences regarding Entrepreneurship. Today we have two consultants and part of their job is to describe projects, make sure that we have a progression of entrepreneurship and to share knowledge and methods with people interested outside the school.

Our progression is secured by further education of the staff. One day courses as well as weeklong education. The school especially stresses that the two consultants need further education and inspiration to do their job well and guide and educate the rest of the staffs. The school management is also involved in different groups and network. This helps them to have a response and a view on the development of entrepreneurship at the school. The further progression is secured by knowing and using the same terms as the staff. Our principal has written different papers on entrepreneurship and organizational framework at an entrepreneurial point of view. The principal also participates in same forums as the consultants.

A task for the consultants is to provide tools for teachers as well as pupils. As many of the schools in Denmark, we also started of using KIE and SMITTE. Two very useful tools that emphasize the creative and innovative processes. However for us they lack focus on the aims of the curriculum as well as partnerships.

Today we use the model for progression by Young Enterprise Denmark[1] . It gives us a good frame for working with entrepreneurship. As a teacher you focus on curriculum, method, creativity and progress. The four circles symbolizes

Another tool we use for any innovative or entrepreneurial processes is The Learning Line . This tool allows pupils and teachers to plan, complete and evaluate any entrepreneurial and innovative process or educational teaching. The model is for smart boards, paper or as a square meter floor model. This model is used although out the school. This means that 6 year old pupils in class 0 also use this in planning, completing and evaluating. The three different colors represent “subjects” (book), “network and relations” (people) and “creativity and entrepreneurship” (light bulb). This model allows everyone involved to see progress and also to evaluate at any time the choices made and the development throughout the project. In the beginning we saw it as an evaluation more than a tool for planning, but today teachers use it were ever they can because of the simplicity of the model. Our pupil can work with the model on their own, in groups or in class. They use ”post it” to put ideas and people on the model. At the end of a project everyone talks about the progression: First we did this, then this, we used this but not him… This model makes entrepreneurship understandable at any level and because we save the copies from project to project, it allows us to emphasis the development and learned skills.

These two models are those we use today and find to be useful. As an Entrepreneurial school we try many of the tools and methods available and we also help other teachers and schools to find what suits them.

Uhre - LLM Uhre - SMM
The Learning Line Model. Left: with symbols. Right as the square meter model.

 

We lately have focused on entrepreneurial language and telling the stories. It is important to have the same understanding of words for example innovation, motivation or ideas. The teachers have spent a lot of time debating the meaning of these words. Later on we have taught the pupils these keywords and emphasized the meaning to them. This way has allowed us to have common understanding when we work with entrepreneurship.

Also sharing our stories when we have staff meetings helps us focusing on the good things. We also share with other schools and people interesting in knowing more about entrepreneurship and how it can effect an entire organization. It is important to tell these stories and to evaluate on the role a teacher has when it no longer is just a matter of reading and teaching the curriculum but also being creative, collaborating with firms and self-employed people and seeing the pupils as resources.

Anchoring of the project in the school

As we have already described the school board urge and support the project. Without their focus and the demand and commitment from the principal and the school management we would not have come this far.

Other than the involvement from the school management, we got our inspiration from national networking. To begin with we continued participating in the county project, and later on we also attended the network called NEIS (Network for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Schools) which is a part of Fonden for Entreprenørskab – Young Enterprise Denmark.

In the NEIS network we participate in an annual conference with different themes and inspiration. Networking is the main purpose and getting ideas through colleagues from other school is often underestimated. NEIS also arranges fieldtrips to other countries with school visits and lectures. Through this network we have made our own contacts with whom we exchange ideas and visions.

Lately we have also joined a project called PIIF (Project of Innovation in Public Schools). Through PIIF yet another teacher received education as a process consultant and all teachers took part in courses regarding The Learning Line.

Last year we participated in TES – Teaching Entrepreneurship in Schools as one of the profile schools in Denmark. One of our process consultants was educated in Bruxelles to teach the virtual guide of TES. So far around 4000 teachers in Europe have been touch?.

We are still a part of the county network- The Entrepreneurial School which now includes all the public schools. The county has its own competition, called the Innovapris (Innovative price). The competition is characterized by rewarding the daily entrepreneurial work on the schools, since there is no common subject or task to be solved. Half the prize money is to be given to a welfare project of our own chosen.

Throughout the years our role in these networking groups has changed from us learning from others into us teaching others, meaning that we are often invited to talk about our school or one or more of our school methods. The school board emphasizes that economy cannot become a determining factor in developing entrepreneurial teaching. Resources are put into the project when needed, however the networking groups are free to attend.

Links of the activity with the outside world

From the beginning it was very important to the school board, the principal, and the process consultants that the project of being a leading entrepreneurial school was made in partnership with the external world. The school has always had a tradition of co-operating with local companies and entrepreneurs and this tradition has been reinforced throughout the years. It has developed from being almost only the principal making contacts to almost every teacher and many pupils taking contact to various companies, associations and clubs. It has become our mindset that we consider and have collaborators in almost every project. Often we are also asked by these partners to solve a task, and these inquiries often lead to exciting projects.

A project: A café on the local mill

One of the projects we were asked to solve came from the local mill guild. In Uhre we have an old mill that has been restored and opened to the public as a small museum. However, the mill did not attract many visitors. The project of attracting more people to the mill was given to our class 4.

Uhre - Mill
Photo: Uhre Mill

 

When we start a project like this, we always begin with a brainstorm. We continue to use the recipe or process, if you like, to have 3000 ideas and bringing them down to one or a few excellent ideas. In the very first part of the project all ideas are good ideas and then later on the pupils sort the ideas and finally decide on one final idea to continue working with. We use various exercises in this process, for example word cards, picture cards, interviews, idea killing, elevator speeches, and many more.

It is also in this phase we discover the need of extra or special knowledge needed for the specific task. If we are to make an advertisement we will teach the pupils the models and means of TV commercials. In this specific case the pupils also had to consider the category of possible customers in order to make the right initiative.

This first phase could be seen as the pre-understanding or creative phase followed by an Innovative phase, then a realization phase and last an evaluating phase. The tools for all this is still The Learning Line and The Progression Model.

Class 4 chose to start a mill café on chosen Sundays. They take turns in attending the café, which also includes baking cakes and making coffee as well as buying soft drinks for the café. It is a great success and the class earns a lot of money, of which one third is for the mill guild, one third is given to charity, and the last third is for the class. Later the mill guild has asked the class to do other projects for them, for instance they have assisted in the making of the homepage.

This is only one of many examples of how we have local companies and associations as partners. With some partners we make partnership agreements where both parts commit to a co-operation which might be for several years. Others we only work with for a short period of time. Often the pupils suggest a partner and sometimes they even make the contacts themselves.

The school in the community

As described above Uhre Friskole is very dedicated and open school and we play a very active role in the community. To help the teachers find partners one of the first things we did was to make a networking card. This card illustrates possible partners and is divided into three sections: Those you can reach by foot, those you can reach by bike and those you can reach taking the bus or train. Some are partners that we have used frequently while others are potentially new partners. This is a great tool for our teachers to have.

Uhre - Finding inspiration
Finding inspiration by visiting a trainee shop, Bestseller Denmark

We often find that the companies are more than willing to co-operate with us. To achieve this it is important to be both very serious and well-prepared when we make the first contact with the companies. By being well-prepared we have succeeded in making exciting contacts with companies that do not usually work with school classes.

Achievements and impacts.

Our school focuses on doing it and doing it well. We have shared our stories both in the news and on different conferences. When Ikast-Brande Kommune, the local county every year invites schools to send in projects and announce best innovation and entrepreneurial projects, we always participates. Often we participate with twice as many projects as the public schools. For several years our projects have received a local innovation prize. Several of our projects are nominated for best social entrepreneurship, best business or best idea. At least four years we have won and several years we have been number 2-3. However we have not seen competitions as a goal for entrepreneurship. We have participated whenever it has a value for our pupils. The prize itself is a goal for the pupils. But much more they see that they can do these project. They are good at it, and they do have success in it.

We are very proved of the collaboration with partners outside our school. We have participated in a project with Conferation of Danish Industry. Besides that we have collaborated with Bestseller and Siemens Wind Power. These project are special, but in terms of learning and seeing a progression in skills the pupils learn as much from working with a local carpenter or shop owner or even an artist as they do from working with large international companies. Working with so many different partners leaves our pupils skilled to cooperate and work with every project in a serious and cable way. As a result of our effort to work with many different partners, we now see firms and others asked for our pupils help with different issues.

Since the beginning we have evaluated every project and done a paper on each project. Photos have been taken and kept from project to project. Today we have a catalog that states every project we do, who the partner was and which class did the project. There are a few lines explaining the projects. Because of The Learning Line our documentation has changes.

In terms of impact we have for years had an impression, that our children learned more and were better skilled that pupils from the public school. Our final exams showed that the pupils did better at our school. At least one point better that the national grades. At this point in time we try to document the impact. We have done it by participating in a Danish project that evaluated on the impact of teaching entrepreneurship. Our teachers spend many hours per week doing entrepreneurial teaching, thinking or preparations to innovation. The next step will be to document the pupils’ achievements and the impact when they start secondary schools and other further education. Our current class 9 is the first class at the school to have been thought entrepreneurial the entire time they have been at the school. The concept of this impact study isn’t yet determent but will be a progression over the next many years. Prier pupils have returned and told us that the skills they have received in terms of educational learning have given them an edge in further education but at the same time they have complained of the lack of knowledge the other students have of entrepreneurship and skills in this area.

Success factors:

The school: Our school is known for the entrepreneurial profile and is seen as a profile school in terms of teaching and opening up the school to the surroundings. Student at teacher training colleges seek our help and stories. We have established a school where we dare to try and are not affair to fail and try again. Our school slogan is: We say what we do. And do what we say. We have accomplished a place that is safe for children to grow into accomplice and cable young people. But we are also a school that cares about the future both locally, nationally and global.

Teachers and other staff: Our colleagues and everyone else employed at the school is proud of both their work and the school which makes them the best ambassadors. The fact that other schools and institutions working with entrepreneurship looks at our schools for advice and inspiration is a factor of the success we have in changing the culture and profile.

Pupils: Our pupils are exited and involved in their own learning. They acknowledge the skills they learn and use them for many different purposes. They ask to be involved in projects and are aware of the surroundings and things they are connected too. They like going to school. They love working innovative and entrepreneurial and they know of the learning they get from collaborating inside and outside the school.

Curriculum: It isn’t a question of either doing entrepreneurship or not. We don’t compromise what our pupils learn or have to learn in terms of curriculums and in terms of further education together with pupils from public school. We choose Entrepreneurship to be the method and tool to greater learning, better understanding and perhaps more motivated pupils that actually see a point in learning. So for us it is both parts.

Obstacles and ways to overcome them

As the project of making Uhre Friskole into an entrepreneurial school was already decided by the school board and the school management, we have not faced the same obstacles as many others. The support and help from the principal has meant that all the teachers have been urged and guided into the process and many of our obstacles have been solved in co-operation between the teachers and school management.

The first obstacle we met was the lack of a common understanding of the new teaching concept. We talked about both innovative and entrepreneurial teaching and education, and defining these and other new words have been an important part of the project. With this common understanding we have been able to develop the project together.

Another issue to be solved was the lack of knowledge of the teachers. We were three teachers who were educated as process consultants and we helped our colleagues in the first processes. The school is divided into three sections, and each process consultant had the responsibility of one sector. However, the project developed further when all the teachers had taken a course in entrepreneurial teaching, which is why we will recommend other schools giving all teachers a small introduction to the practice and also educate process consultants. This also supports the common understanding and exterminates insecurity as well as improves the involvement of the teachers.

Later on the process consultants had difficulties finding new inspiration. As we were some of the first school to get an entrepreneurial profile and because the progress in our school happened rather fast compared to other schools we found it hard to find new inspiration to bring the project even further. Now this is no longer a problem since many new methods, models, and theories are developed. Also many teachers all over the country are involved in entrepreneurial teaching and are more than willing to share ideas and projects.

Today some of the obstacles are time and economy. Often the projects where we co-operate with the community take quite a lot of time. There can also be an expense when we need to visit companies and partners. Even though we try not to make this an obstacle it is something that we consider when we start a new project.

Changing the scenery for learning is important. Inviting local specialists into the class is also important.

Uhre - changing the sceanery Uhre - inviting local
Left: Changing the sceanery for learning is important. Roght: Inviting local specialists into the class is also important

 



[1].                Fonden for Entreprenørskab: www.ffe-ye.dk