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Evaluation of the Northland Enterprising Teachers (NET) initiative: final report

Rachel Bolstad

Northland Enterprising Teachers (NET) was a professional development programme designed to help secondary schools develop an “enterprising” approach to teaching and learning.

NET is based on the concept of “education for enterprise” (E4E): teaching and learning which is directed towards developing in young people those skills and competencies, understandings, and attributes which will equip them to be innovative; and to identify, initiate, create, and successfully manage personal, community, business, and work opportunities, including working for themselves. The pilot period for the project was 1 April 2004–30 September 2005, and at least 24 Northland schools have had some involvement with the initiative.*

NZCER’s evaluation of the NET initiative focused on the following two key research questions:

In schools that have been involved in NET:

  • What evidence is there for changes in pedagogy related to the schools’ involvement in NET?
  • What evidence is there that E4E has been integrated into school planning and infrastructure?

The two main data-gathering strategies were: case studies and surveys within four NET schools; and postal surveys returned by NET teachers and school leaders in nine other NET schools.

Overall, the evaluation suggested NET was very successful in stimulating and supporting change at the school planning level in its first two years. There was a high receptivity to the initiative amongst Northland secondary schools. Most of those involved seem to feel a strong connection between the goals and aims of education for enterprise, and their school’s own values, culture, or philosophy. Most of the schools are now including education for enterprise in their policy and curriculum documents, and it is gaining a profile amongst students and the school community. However, the schools are at various stages of development along the path towards becoming “enterprising” schools. Education for enterprise in the surveyed schools shows signs of a pattern typical to most school innovations, that is: flourishing in some classes and subjects under the direction of enthusiastic teachers and heads of departments, but it is not yet embedded across the whole school curriculum and culture.

Focus group students from four NET schools were able to explain clearly what they had learned from being involved in education for enterprise, for example:

  • how to manage their time effectively
  • what their own personal skills, strengths, and weaknesses were
  • how they learned
  • how to work with other people, including how to work with other people’s strengths and weaknesses and manage conflict when it arose
  • how to plan their time and use of resources
  • how to communicate with a wide range of different people, including businesspeople and community members
  •  how to deal with underperforming team members, and
  • how things work in the “real world”.

The features of education for enterprise most valued by students were:

  • that they were leading their own projects (and their own learning)
  • that they were doing “practical hands-on” activities with a relationship to the “real world”, and
  • that they were able to, and had reasons to, interact with a range of people from outside the school, including business-people and community members.

The case study examples suggest that there is willingness in the NET schools to generate learning opportunities for students that do align with the principles of education for enterprise and are “authentic” opportunities for students to develop the key competencies. However, almost half the staff we surveyed agreed that education for enterprise was harder to plan for than “conventional” teaching and learning approaches.

Two significant challenges are: 

  • the time required to plan for education for enterprise approaches, and
  • the demands of assessment.

Many survey and interview respondents believed that the next step for their schools was to further embed education for enterprise by cultivating greater involvement of teachers across the whole curriculum. To achieve this, it will be necessary for staff to develop a “shared vision” for education for enterprise in their school. There is also a need for coherent messages to be given at the national level to ensure that attempts to transform the ecology of schooling towards practices and systems that promote a lifelong learning orientation—for example, education for enterprise—are deliberate and planned for in schools.


* Many of these schools began their enterprise journey with Enterprise New Zealand Trust programmes such as the Young Enterprise Scheme.
View the ENZT programmes on the Enterprise New Zealand Trust's website.

ENZT is currently developing a primary years education for enterprise programme called BEST (Building Enterprising Students Today) under contract for the Ministry of Education. This programme aims to embed enterprise competencies, skills and attributes across the curriculum. It is anticipated that this initiative will be available for schools in 2008

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Research report
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