This evaluation explores the work of Skills to Shine. Skills to Shine is a social enterprise based in the North-East of England with an aim of engaging young people in real-life, relevant and inspiring educational activities. Skills to Shine has an initiative approach to learning which bridges the gap between education and business, using a proven educational model that, through project and enquiry based learning techniques, introduces young people to the world of work whilst developing their core enterprise and independent working skills.

The North East of England remains an area where unemployment dominates headlines, for the 3 months ending August 2016, the highest unemployment rate in the UK was in the North East (6.8%). In an area where these figures regularly dominate headlines, projects and initiatives which raise aspiration, promote employability skills and develop independent thinkers are an integral part in closing the gap, ensuring those school leavers in the North East are afforded the same opportunities as their peers in other postcodes.
With this in mind, the Skills to Shine Programme aims to nurture and develop these skills through project-based enterprise education activities which introduce young people to the broad range of careers and employment options available to them. At the same time, the projects raise awareness, aspirations and increase motivation, drive and desire to explore careers while instilling the belief that they can pursue and achieve in whatever career and employment they choose. The ultimate aims of these educational activities are to help enhance young people’s employability skills and economic wellbeing.

With this in mind, the Skills to Shine Programme aims to nurture and develop these skills through project-based enterprise education activities which introduce young people to the broad range of careers and employment options available to them. At the same time, the projects raise awareness, aspirations and increase motivation, drive and desire to explore careers while instilling the belief that they can pursue and achieve in whatever career and employment they choose. The ultimate aims of these educational activities are to help enhance young people’s employability skills and economic wellbeing.

Research into the UK Labour Market, shows that individuals are now far more likely to be employed by a small firm or become self-employed. Without key employability skills and a sense of ‘enterprise’ it can be argued that young people entering the UK Labour Market could have significant difficulty in finding a job. Skills that need to be taught and developed, which do not come naturally for many.

Lord Young’s report of 2014 recognised that:

The world of those now leaving education will be one in which self-reliance and creativity will be rewarded and the education system will have to adapt. The most employable skills of all are the three Rs – but they, by themselves, may not be sufficient unless accompanied by an enterprising attitude.”

Skills to Shine work alongside businesses and employers in designing, developing and delivering their work. In doing so they help bridge the gap between the young people and employment through practical – hands on enterprise focused activities which nurture and encourage this enterprising attitude. The programme currently has three strands: Summer School, curriculum work and the enterprise project. These strands are each underpinned by Skills to Shines pedagogical commitment to project- based learning, developing and enhancing the important skills of Mathematics and Literacy but also changing skills, mind-set and attitudes.

“ Enterprise doesn’t just mean creating entrepreneurs but also the enterprise that creates a positive outlook on like that enables you to succeed in any endeavour.”

                             (Enterprise for all 2014)

Towards the end of 2016, a lot of press coverage was given to Enterprise Education and reforms in the National Curriculum suggesting that Schools ensure that there is a coherent programme to develop enterprise education. This view was not only supported by OFSTED but also the focus of a Government Report – Getting Ready for Work. Many of the recommendations outlined in this report, share pedagogical methodologies already employed by Skills to Shine, alongside these and the Qualitative and Quantitative data collected through evaluation of project participants throughout 2016, it clearly identifies gaps in provision and the successes of Skills to Shine in addressing these needs.

The following sections critically analyse the approaches employed in each of the three strands and analyses the impact and lasting legacy provided by the opportunities made available to schools and young people.

The Enterprise Project:

The Big Lottery funded Enterprise Project has delivered activities to young people within the Northumberland region, Skills to Shine deliver the Enterprise Project to Schools, Academies and Children’s Organisations. In 2016, this project was delivered within 5 Secondary Schools, 2 Primary Schools, 1 Specialist School and with a Fostering Agency.

The aim of the project was to introduce the world of work to young people, while developing their entrepreneurial skills and engaging them in society and the local community.  A Government-commissioned evaluation of enterprise education was published in July 2010 stating that: Enterprise Education is intended to “help young people be creative and innovative, to take risks and manage them, and do this with determination and drive.” The Department has divided Enterprise Education into three areas:

  • Enterprise capability – enterprise skills and a can-do attitude
  • Financial capability – understanding and managing basic finances
  • Economic & business understanding – understanding the business context

In light of this and to coincide with an area for development identified in a 2014 Impact Audit, explaining that Skills to Shine needed to create a more concrete understanding of the skills that it is aiming to develop in the young people that it works with.

Skills to Shine explain and define these skills to the young people using the following criteria:

  • Confidence
  • Independence
  • Team Work
  • Leadership
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Decision Making
  • Time Management
  • Communication
  • Understanding Money

These skills along with the contribution they make to their own life and that of the community are evaluated at the end of each project. These skills are altered to meet the needs of the individuals within each education setting and are discussed in detail with the Project Link teacher at each setting. Projects are then launched with a key objective and learning outcome, matched to the development of these key skills.

Through detailed discussion, the Skills to Shine team were able to plan, develop and lead bespoke projects (See Planning sheets) which met the needs of the learners while developing key ‘life-skills’ and providing an insight into the world of work, broadening horizons on the possibilities which lay ahead and providing information and resources which the young people needed in order to plan and prepare their next steps.

The enterprise project, make your £1 grow, looked very different at each establishment yet the outcome and end product was the same. Evaluation data collected from both young people, teachers, mentors and parents indicated that in all contexts the quality of the project was rated Good or Better 90% of the time (Quantitative and Qualitative data available of Survey Monkey).

At the start of November 2016, Skills to Shine launched a 7 week Enterprise Project,  working with over 100 young people within 8 different schools across the Northumberland region. Each school was following the Skills to Shine model of the – Make £1 Grow Challenge. Each school was set a challenge to make £1 grow creatively linked to the theme they would be given. The themes were Textiles, Forestry, Hospitality, Photography, Artisan and Music. Through the use of enterprise skills, links with local businesses and the development of personal attributes and qualities each young person had to gain the knowledge and skills needed to develop a product or service; prior to selling their wares on a Christmas Market stall. The young people learnt about jobs and careers in the retail industry as well as gained key business start-up experience.

The launch of these projects were well timed as they coincided with the publication of Ofsted’s report Getting Ready for Work, a follow-up to Lord Young’s 2014 report on Enterprise Education. The report made several recommendations, including for:

  • The DfE to revisit the Young report and promote the importance of well-planned provision for enterprise education
  • The DfE to further promote the Careers and Enterprise Company to encourage schools and businesses to work together in delivering enterprise education.


Skills to Shine are already leading the way in targeting these recommendations as they continue to plan and promote the provision of enterprise education, not only through the projects and the show casing events at the end of the event but also through regular Web Blogs, attending TeachMeets to promote the Skills to Shine model of working but also by developing  secure understanding of  the needs of each establishment they work with. All of the surveys completed in the Year 2016 show that 100% of teachers working with the young people rate the projects as Excellent and have identified a Very positive impact on the young people and their learning. One teacher said:

“It developed the children in ways they would not have had the chance to in their normal day to day school life.”

Skills to Shine already has a well-established contact base, making the most of local businesses and bridging the link between schools and businesses and offering young people the invaluable insight to real business and real business practices. Evaluations show that one pupil has considered and now undertaken a work experience placement in light of the project, the skills and the industry insight gained. This shows the success Skills to Shine have in broadening the horizons of those young people with whom they work and identifying different careers and industries in which they can work. All of the enterprise projects demonstrated gains in the understanding of the world of work, careers and new jobs which may be available to the youngsters. Staff identified this as a positive outcome, with one reporting:

“It opened the doors to the world of work, making careers like Media, more accessible”

In some projects evaluations show sharp increases with as many as 75% of the young people having no prior understanding of Jobs and Careers before the project, but reporting 100% understanding afterwards. (Durham Media Project)

However, even despite recent government guidance, much research shows that despite the recommendations for enterprise education to be embedded into the practice of the school, schools continue to not have the means or skills in which to successfully implement this. Ofsted’s report showed many of the teachers deployed to deliver aspects of enterprise education were non-specialists, who had little or no training or experience of this area. This limited their confidence and ability to teach effectively as well as some school leaders who reported that enterprise education was “not a feature of their curriculum,” and that their focus was on accountability through examinations. Skills to Shine’s Independent Audit of 2014 identified that; Many schools seek third sector providers of enterprise experiences or local employers with whom, they could continue to collaborate over a long period of time. It has been, in light of this audit and following Lord Young’s report of 2014 that Skills to Shine, now have developed a number of link schools in Northumberland where they have developed and delivered a number of enterprise projects, this involves Year 6 pupils in Primary Schools and Secondary School pupils, targeting feeder Primaries and ensuring provision across Key Stage 2 – 4. This means through regular involvement in these schools, building networks and sharing knowledge and skills, Skills to Shine are able to target key groups of children and/or whole cohorts to develop positive attitudes in relation to the world of work, creating meaningful opportunities for young people to engage with linked to the world of work, with one stating:

“It opened the door to engineering, helped me discover that there were different careers.”

Enterprise education: ‘Getting ready for work’ (2016) recognised that Business involvement in some of the schools visited relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents, potentially resulting in disadvantaged pupils missing out. This is not the view shared by Skills to Shine and is in fact a market where they actively seek participants. Over the last 12 Months they have run and delivered specific targeted enterprise sessions with Fostering Agencies and those young people in Foster Care and lower attaining pupils in English and Maths while still working with Looked After Children and individuals eligible for FSM.

back obtained through evaluation suggests that schools and learners would like longer spent on the projects, an opportunity which Skills to Shine could develop further, through development of partnership schools and support with planning, delivery and staff CPD. Other negative feedback stemmed from situations beyond the control of Skills to Shine and focussed on issues like, School timetabling, selection of groups and size of cookery rooms etc.

Through thorough analysis of the data and planning, Skills to Shine are successful in that they:

  1. Supports and encourage teaching and learning styles which are entirely compatible with primary school practice (e.g. pupil-centred, active, practical, social, fun)
  2. They encourage schools to develop links and involve the local community, business and parents in education activities – including end of project showcases.
  3. Enterprise projects are challenging, rewarding and fun. Data shows a minimum of 60% development in the acquisition of enterprise skills from before to after the projects.
  4. It can provide an excellent context for using a wider range of teaching and learning styles, allowing greater pupil autonomy, independence and responsibility. Teachers can adopt a different role ( e.g. adviser, facilitator)
  5. It develops pupils as independent learners
  6. It provides opportunities for pupils to practice personal learning and thinking skills.
  7. They introduce a wide range of future options to all the young people they work with.
  8. Well planned programmes allow development of entrepreneurial skills – measured through quantitative data collected as part of the evaluation process.

(Available through Survey Monkey)

The Enterprise Project allows Skills to Shine to build on the best practice, engaging schools, communities and young people outside the normal prescriptive education system. Opportunities for young people to showcase their achievements, achievements which are not measured by academic outcomes but rather by the acquisition, application and development of key skills, through the nurturing and fostering of resilient and determined attitudes which empower the young people and fill them with a sense of pride. Evaluation has shown over a 60% increase in the self-esteem, view of aspirations and engagement of all pupils who took part in these projects.

Thorough analysis of the 2016 evaluation data reveals that the Skills to Shine projects are having a positive impact on the young people with whom they are working. Anonymous responses from 81 Young People taking part in the Enterprise Challenge were analysed and key findings are as follows.

96% or Young people taking part in project deemed it as Good or Excellent, while this response is not measurable by any outcome, it does indicate that the Young People enjoy the experiences offered to them by Skills to Shine and the delivery methods of Project Based Learning and real, relevant learning is something which the youngsters are happy to engage with. This is further supported by 50% of participants identifying the new opportunities on offer as one of the highlights of the challenge.

As mentioned previously, a key aim of Skills to Shine is to introduce young people to the broad range of careers and employment options available to them.  78% of participants felt they had learnt about new jobs and careers with 56% claiming they have a good understanding of new careers compared to 28% before the project, with one explaining they feel they now understand “how the real world works.” (Bedlingtonshire High School)

Skills to Shine have a clear set of skills they seek to foster and develop within the Young People. Data collected through project evaluation shows the following:

Total Responses indicating development of skill Percentage
Confidence 55 68%
Teamwork 57 70%
Communication 59 73%
Creativity 59 73%
Decision Making 62 77%
Time Management 51 63%
Leadership Skills 48 59%
Competitive Spirit 31 38%
Setting Realistic Goals 60 74%
Understanding Money 46 57%

Analysis of results taken from Evaluation Questionnaire (Q.9) completed by Young People 2016

These results indicate that Skills to Shine are effective in developing entrepreneurial skills to young people, these skills can also be recognised and identified by the young people along with the gains they are making in these areas. The data shows that Skills to Shine is particularly good at developing Decision Making and Problem Solving Skills along with communication and Creativity. They also give the young people the opportunity to make and set realistic goals about their projects and ideas. However, Leadership Skills, Competitive Spirit and Understanding Money are all areas which suggest room for improvement. There could be a number of reasons, these areas were regarded as less developed by the young people, for example, the competitive spirit may not have been sully developed in the projects as the youngsters were working in teams, if the participant group was already small then it is likely that the project became a project all members worked on, increased numbers could see a rise in the competitive spirit. This is only one possibility for this and would require further research and interviews with participants to fully explore the reason. Leadership and Money are both skills which are planned for by the Skills to Shine programme, perhaps the teaching is not discrete enough for the Young People to realise they are developing these skills or perhaps Skills to Shine need to develop activities and outcomes for projects which further embed these skills.

When  considering moving forward, a clear focus on budgeting and accounts could be key. Evaluation from teaching staff have identified this as a note for future improvement through their evaluation. This request also links with the government agenda of developing financial capability – understanding and managing basic finances. Although finance forms a basic part of the course, costing, break-even point, when working with children in the KS4 bracket, it would be beneficial for Skills to Shine to consider the introduction of profit and loss, sources of income, budgeting and creating accounts for their actual enterprise business.

Summer School and Curriculum Projects:

Summer Schools and Curriculum Projects are also offered by Skills to Shine.

Curriculum projects are offered throughout the year to enhance and complement in class learning. Skills to Shine have established links with businesses globally who offer young people the opportunity to not only work with them but also to visit businesses to see how big brands operate. Curriculum projects take many forms including:

  • One off days
  • Week long collapsed curriculum projects
  • Week without Walls
  • Weekly sessions
  • Enterprise qualifications
  • Embedding enterprise into your school Curriculum
  • Mapping the curriculum to include Enterprise skills.

Projects involve real life business challenges such as Make Money Grow, Event Management, Forensic Science, Manufacturing and exploring Jobs and Careers of the Future.

In 2015 Mr Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said, “Students often lack the personal skills, awareness and basic self-discipline that is essential in the workplace, It’s about developing coaching skills in schools, and working with employers so people can experience and understand what the world of work requires of them from a very early age.”

This view encapsulates the very aim of Skills to Shine and outlines the pedagogy which is delivered throughout curriculum projects.

Skills to Shine works with schools and businesses to create an environment where teaching and learning methods within the classroom become real, relevant and inspiring. They do this by embedding career and enterprise education as part of the school’s curriculum for youngsters aged 5 -19.

The core elements of this approach are:

  • Taking an area of the curriculum that teachers are already delivering and working with a business to redesign the content so the content so that it is very business focussed.

Helping teachers to appreciate ways in which they can bring the reality of vocations and careers in particular business sectors to their core curriculum teaching. This has involved the teachers teaching and the students learning as f they were working in business and industry.

  • Using industry experts from particular areas to bring the reality of their work into the curriculum and specific topics.
  • Taking young people out of school to look at specific businesses and the jobs and careers available within their sector.
  • Developing the use of business mentors

Enterprise education: ‘Getting ready for work’ (2016) recognises that historically, business involvement in some of the schools visited relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents, potentially resulting in disadvantaged pupils missing out.  Skills to Shine, seek to support those pupils who are disadvantaged, The English Indices of Deprivation (ID) 2015 measures relative levels of deprivation in small areas across England called Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs), this comparison makes it easier to identify those counties and wards where deprivation is most prevalent. In Northumberland, there are 22 LSOAs (11%) in Northumberland in the most deprived 10% of all LSOAs in England, all but one of the 22 LSOAs in the most deprived 10% fall in the south east of Northumberland as well as this the majority of LSOAs in the most deprived 30% are also concentrated in the south east of the county.

Skills to Shine deliver a number of projects in this area, many of which take place in wards (Newbiggin, Ashington, Blyth and Bedlington) classified as the most deprived 10% of the country. Areas which face generational unemployment which can lead to lack of aspiration and disengagement. The Skills to Shine projects lead to raise aspiration of these you people and open the doors to the possibilities which lie in front of them, raising aspiration through the introduction of new and exciting career opportunities which may have seemed out of reach or unheard of before. Following the end of the project, one participant from this area, commented that :

“ There are many opportunities open to our age group.”

While another said:

“ Accessing the careers fair was very eye opening and showed just how many different jobs there are.”

These quotes, along with the positive responses gathered in the vast quantitative data, show the impact Skills to Shine has on broadening the horizons of youngsters, making them aware of the world of work and the different opportunities available.

Extra-Curricular Clubs / Summer Schools help young people to gain enterprise and entrepreneurial skills in world of work projects. Through these projects the young people are introduced to a range of careers and gain hands-on experience of the world of work, which helps prepare them for when they leave school. These clubs run throughout holiday periods, Summer Schools, Holiday Clubs and After School clubs. Skills to Shine is unique in that it offers something different to the normal sports clubs or youth work programmes. On offer is an educational and fun programme which helps young people gain new skills and experiences in enterprise, creative thinking and basic life-skills.

A commons Library Report, November 2016 included the following key findings related to enterprise education:

  • The extent to which schools used their curriculum to prepare pupils for the world of work was largely dependent on whether school leaders considered it to be a priority.
  • Even where schools were delivering enterprise education, it was often unclear whether this was having any impact on pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills.

With this is mind there is little surprise that the quality of Enterprise Education and introduction to the world of work varies significantly and the life experiences young people access can often to be too reliant on Academic Outcomes rather than preparation for a job role and employability skills.

Skills to Shine access the understanding of individuals before and after a programme, through initial assessment and evaluation, Skills to Shine are able to quantitively show that children make progress in not only the entrepreneurial skills identified earlier but also in their attitudes and outlook on their contribution to society and community.

By running these projects outside of curriculum time, it allows Skills to Shine to engage young people in the notion of work, discuss, develop and identify the necessary skills. Through evaluation, structured conversations and support from industry experts, Skills to Shine are able to foster ambition and aspiration, which hopefully can be translated into an eagerness to learn and progress academically as the young people will be able to make direct links between the opportunities received and the necessary next steps to guide them on their learning journey.

Moving Forward / Recommendations:

If using recent Government research and papers as a basis for evaluation it would be clear to see that Skills to Shine and their ethos on Enterprise Education is in line with many of the government ideas and points for development. Some recommendations from the 2014 Lord Young Report are beginning to be embedded in to the practice of Skills to Shine, however, as identified by so many others, the curriculum is key to the learning opportunities on offer during school time for the youngsters today, although Enterprise Education now features in the PSHE guidelines, PSHE is not a compulsory part of any child’s education. A more child-centred approach would have the most impact on the whole school, allowing academics to deliver the necessary examination skills and information while still teaching all children about the world of work and developing those key employability skills so many employers are looking for.

In terms of Skills to Shine, there are several recommendations for moving forward, including:

  • Continue to encourage schools and businesses to work together in delivering enterprise education – build on the bank of industry experts who are available to support, encourage and enthuse youngsters, develop links with key schools and look for ways to measure impact.
  • Continue with the development of life skills, employability skills for those disengaged in Education. Offer longer, practical challenges which can be embedded into the curriculum for these learners but maintain a focus on not only the enterprise and employability skills but with Maths and Literacy.
  • Create a range of out of school opportunities where young people can engage with necessary life skills in a non-threatening, academic based environment, developing confidence and promoting the world of work.
  • In light of the renewed Ofsted Framework and the recommendation that Ofsted ensure that inspection judgements take greater account of the coherence and rigour with which schools prepare pupils for employment and self-employment offer a series of challenges to schools which can be delivered throughout an academic year on a longer scale, to young people at key transitional stages.
  • Embedded within curriculum , offer CPD opportunities to schools, ensure that there is a coherent programme to develop enterprise education.

This report was completed following consultation with and information taken from the following sources:

Skills to Shine – Survey Monkey

Getting Ready for Work – Government Publication

Enterprise for All – The relevance of enterprise in education Lord  Young June 2014

Ofsted School Survey Report

Ofsted Report – Business, Economics and Business Education

The Mirror Newspaper

The Guardian Newspaper

Reviewing the landscape and making the case for enterprise education – part of the Skills to Shine Impact Audit – commissioned by LKMco.

Skills to Shine Performance Evaluation – 2014

Bill 9 – Commons Library Briefing, 28th November 2016.

National Curriculum Document 2014

A guide to Enterprise Education – DCSF

Report completed by Heather Fawcus – January 2017