What started as an international education 'dragon's den' has taken wing for Broadclyst

Staff and pupils from Broadclyst Community Primary School, Devon, visit London on Wednesday (October 12) to celebrate the astonishing success of their second Global Enterprise Challenge (GEC) that has reached 700 students aged 9-12 in 200 teams across 20 countries.

They are joined by this year’s winners, from the Lebanon (above) via Skype, for an awards ceremony at Microsoft’s London base and the launch of the 2016-17 event which has been extended to involve secondary students (aged 12-15). Secondary schools from the Dominican Republic, Spain, Jordan, the Netherlands, USA and Albania have already signed up.

A remarkable achievement  

Microsoft education boss Anthony Salcito and east Devon MP Hugo Swire will also be present to mark a remarkable achievement by a small rural school (450 pupils) with a long and consistent record for innovative curriculum work with integrated technology. Broadclyst started its enterprise journey in earnest in 2014 when it won The Pitch, a dragon’s den-style event at an international Microsoft innovative education event in Spain (see "Broadclyst scoops $25,000 at Microsoft's 'The Pitch'").

It invested its prize in extending the challenges it had set its own children to schools worldwide. This uses engaging and innovative classroom work that incorporates a wide range of business skills (see "Devon primary's enterprise event spans 15 countries"). Classrooms from Jamaica to Jordan, set up business enterprise teams and collaborated within ten international companies. They gained their investment funding by pitching to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ of their teachers. Then each company designed, manufactured, marketed and sold a different product. These included bookmarks, phone cases, keyrings, smoothies and muffins.

The 2016 top three teams of children are: first, Makassed Khalil Shehab Primary School, Lebanon (Recycled Products Company, pictured above); Broadclyst Community Primary School, UK (Recycled Products Company); third, La Devesa Bilingual School, Carlet, Spain (Muffin Company). There is a website that showcases the experiences of the participants (see gec.education).

Jonathan BishopBroadclyst head Jonathan BishopBroadclyst headteacher Jonathan Bishop, who started the GEC, commented: “It has been very exciting to see that the children participating in this second year of the GEC are achieving even higher standards than last year. Their innovative, entrepreneurial ideas and the quality of their products have been phenomenal as they strive to make their team the most successful.

“I have been very impressed, in particular, with the different ideas they’ve come up with to market their products – from online order forms and TV commercials to text messaging their families and using good, traditional hard sales techniques to customers at sales events!

“And I’m delighted that the feedback we have received from teachers in the participating schools has emphasised the high level of engagement as well as the high quality of work that this style of learning delivers.”

It was a tough call for the judges. Agent4change.net was involved along with Mark Sparvell, chief judge and senior education manager for Microsoft Worldwide Education and Laura-Jane Ellard, an award-winning business and management student from the University of Reading.

The creativity and ingenuity of the children was engaging throughout, and their attention to detail impressive so the standards were very high and the performances close. Two teams even managed to offer purchases via the internet.

The learning always came to the fore for judges  

Yes, the balanced accounts and use of technology were factored into the judging, but it was the learning that always came to the fore, and drove those first two elements. And there were features that schools around the world are increasingly bringing into their classrooms – like real-life tasks, international collaboration, sharing with external audiences – that were naturally integrated. They clearly engaged and excited the children, their communities too. And these are features that lend themselves to good use of technology. Anyone interested in project-based learning should take a look.

BroadclystDigital tools were an integral part of Broadclyst's GEC workThe Microsoft technology underpinning the project also underwent some tough testing from the schools involved. And it came through it well. As Jonathan Bishop put it: “The tools offered by Microsoft Office 365 have powered this purposeful collaboration and creativity among all the children. They have made group conference calls with Skype, presented ideas with Sway, and shared and voted on them through Yammer instant messaging.”

When schools become showcases for companies like Microsoft, as Broadclyst is, there is sometimes a perception that they couldn’t have done it without the backing. Nothing could be further than the truth. Broadclyst has a reputation for innovative learning and technology going back two generations. And its attitude to technology is robust to say the least.

The school expects to use new operating systems like Windows 10 as and when they are available, just like the average mobile phone user upgrades. Its service providers understand that and make it happen.

For those of us who have seen the GEC from its inception, when children confidently presented their products to the Barcelona ‘dragons’ via Skype, its growth has been remarkable. It’s a happy confirmation that schools globally have an appetite for this kind of learning that can find relevance in most subject areas. And the decision to extend it to secondary schools has already been rewarded by swift registrations from across the world (full list below). This also has huge potential for cross-phase work.

Like a mountain bike for learning

The project works like a kind of mountain bike for learning. Like a TeachMeet it can travel across all sorts of terrain and elements can be varied and amended to ensure relevance and sustainability. And the culture at Broadclyst has enabled it to act as a catalyst for other schools.

None of that is lost on Jonathan Bishop. He and his staff are never lacking a vision for the future. “I’m so proud of what our teachers, children and collaborators have achieved,” he says. “It’s far too important to leave as a one-off activity, and we have shown that we can grow it together. The technology has powered rich learning in a form that simply couldn’t have happened without it.

“We warmly welcome our new secondary partners. They add to the dynamics and breadth. And we look forward to building this project with schools all over the world. All are welcome.”

More information 
GEC website gec.education    
GEC on Twitter: @GEChallenge 
Broadclyst website: bcps.org.uk 
Broadclyst on Twitter: @BCPSchool 
Microsoft Showcase Schools   
See also feature on Jonathan Bishop on Anthony Salcito's Daily Edventures   
The secondary schools that have registered for the new category for 12 to 15-year-olds are:
Notre Dame School, Dominican Republic; Marti Sorolla, Valencia, Spain; Julio Verne School, Valencia, Spain; Islamic Educational College, Jubeiha, Jordan; Daltonschool Elserike, Markelo, Netherlands; Corriher-Lipe MIddle School, Rowan Salisbury Schools, USA; Naim Frasheri, Durres, Albania.

Footnote 
Broadclyst Community Primary School, rated outstanding by Ofsted, was founded in 1810 for local children. It has a national and international reputation for its innovative use of IT and digital media offering its 450 pupils 1:1 access to computers and a range of technologies for learning.
It has Teaching School status and headteacher Jonathan Bishop has been designated a National Leader of Education.
Broadclyst Community Primary School is part of the Cornerstone Multi Academy Trust, which also includes the Cornerstone Teaching School, which supports educators, and is currently building the brand new Westclyst Community Primary School to meet increasing demand. For more information, see bcps.org.uk 

Microsoft Global Enterprise Pitch by Jonathan Bishop from Broadclyst Primary School on Vimeo.