Magnus Bashaarat, headmaster of Milton Abbey School, Dorset, explains the ethos behind the school’s entrepreneur-in-residence scheme.
A friend asked me recently why it was that, over the past few years, a succession of some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs have been happy to leave their desks and head to deepest Dorset to spend time at Milton Abbey School, helping pupils to understand how they started their businesses. ‘Your entrepreneur-in-residence scheme must be great for the pupils, but what’s in it for the entrepreneurs?’ she asked bluntly.
My answer was that they all believe as passionately as I do that schools need to widen educational horizons. Our entrepreneur-in-residence scheme is now in its fourth year. It’s about recognising a gap in the traditional education system, which assumes that exams followed by university and then followed by the workplace is the only route to success. At Milton Abbey, we recognise that giving pupils knowledge, confidence and experience of enterprise may help some of our pupils far more with exciting consequences.
Anya Hindmarch helped us devise the entrepreneur-in-residence scheme shortly after I joined the school as headmaster in 2014. As a school girl, she listened to a careers talk given by an old girl who had started her own business. She was so inspired she went straight back to her study and drew a picture of a shop with her name above it. The rest you might say is fashion history. She has an MBE and a UK trade ambassadorship under her belt, plus Anya Hindmarch shops around the world. So she can be forgiven for feeling pleased that she decided to go to Italy after school to find a factory to make up her handbag designs, rather than taking the safer route of following her friends to university.
Cath Kidston, Johnnie Boden and David Ross, the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, have followed Anya’s lead. They have all generously given up their time to speak with pupils. They talk about their businesses, how they set them up, the pitfalls they faced and how they overcame them. Entrepreneurs in residence deliver a lecture to all pupils at the school, teach sixth-form pupils taking our popular BTEC Enterprise and Entrepreneurship qualification and provide one-to-one business workshops to the finalists in our annual ‘business start up’. This all works in building up the confidence of budding entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurialism is deeply embedded in Milton Abbey. You only have to look at the successful careers of many Old Miltonians to recognise that. The ethos of entrepreneurialism permeates parents, as well as current pupils who already running business while still at school, plus our governors, Charlie Bigham included. Truly, the thread of enterprise is tightly woven into the fabric of the school. But we are first and foremost a school where you can excel in whatever field you choose. We have pupils going on to Oxford to read archaeology, to Durham to read criminology and university is still the chosen destination for the vast majority. Seventy-six per cent of pupils this year went to university with the remaining 24 per cent heading off on a gap year work experience or going straight into the workplace.
University is to be encouraged, but only for those who know what they want to study and have a real feel for their chosen subject. For those who don’t, take a leaf out of Anya’s book, or that of a pupil who left last year and has already bought a flat in London on the proceeds of his first year’s pay. It’s a sobering thought for us parents who are about to embark on the university fees application scheme. I hope more schools will embrace the expansion of educational horizons and give children a wider range of skills and options for the future. At Milton Abbey, education is more than exams – we teach skills, knowledge, approach and attitude. After all, that’s where future employability lies.