Enterprise 'at heart' of school visited by William and Kate
Darwen Academy, visited by Prince William and Kate Middleton today, has used entrepreneurship to improve results, says the independent school's sponsor, Capita founder Rod Aldridge.
Capita founder Rod Aldridge is leading a plan to place enterprise at the heart of secondary education in five schools across the UK.
An "entrepreneurship curriculum" has already helped Darwen Academy - visited by Prince William and Kate Middleton on their final pre-wedding engagement on Monday - in Blackburn become one of the most improved schools in the UK, he said.
And now he's working on plans to repeat the Darwen model in four more schools.
Mr Aldridge, who contributed £2m to the £46m costs of establishing the independent school in 2008, said 49pc of students secured five or more A-C grades at GCSE last year, up from 23pc in the year the school was taken out of local government control.
The school's "enterprise specialism" is one of the core reasons for the turnaround, he believes. Last October, the Academy became the first UK school to host a business centre.
Start-ups benefit from subsidised rent, utilities and business rates, while students can use the facilities and learn from entrepreneurs.
Max Larcombe, project manager of the business centre, which is called The Bridge, said: "We're clear with the businesses that we want to make it mutually beneficial."
He said the owner of a new publishing business had recently used the winner of a design competition among the school's students to develop his logo.
"There are a lot of additional benefits to the clients because of the students' creativity."
The Bridge, which formed part of the tour planned for the Royal couple, has 11 pods available to rent and currently hosts eight start-ups and social enterprises.
Its facilities can be used for free by anyone from the local area aged up to 25.
Mr Aldridge, who left education at 16, said he wanted the enterprise focus at the school and the centre to help improve prospects in a deprived area.
"It's about getting young people to think differently about what's possible, giving them a choice between work, university and starting a business."
Brendan Loughran, the school's principal, said the curriculum is framed around the "capabilities of entrepreneurs" for 11 to 14-year-olds, while older students are encouraged to take business related courses such as Business Studies and ifs School of Finance qualifications.
Mr Aldridge, who resigned from Capita in 2006, said: "If we get this right, it's life changing. If we start a dozen businesses, they could be the future employers in a community that's losing jobs."