You may be encouraged to know that the staff at The Key spend a lot of time in schools. Many of us are ex teachers (note, not necessarily failed teachers that couldn’t hack it), lots of us are serving governors, and then many more regularly visit schools as part of our research into what challenges schools are facing, so we can support with the right kind of content. We love hanging out with school leaders, getting to know what’s on their plate and finding inspiration from what they’re doing.
What is more of a mystery to us is…the pupils. While we’ve had the odd school tour courtesy of a confident Year 6 student, and we host an annual work experience week across two offices, we don’t get to “get down with the kids” as often as we’d like.
So it was fantastic to be invited last week to take part in one of our member schools’ “Creative Curriculum” days. Our mission? To teach 180 students from years 7 to 10 how to “pitch” (fortunately not all at the same time – our behaviour management strategies are a bit rusty).
The school, Addey and Stanhope Secondary in Deptford, south east London, was running a whole-school enterprise day, in vertical groups, where teams of 5 students had to come together and design an outdoor space for their school of the future. They had to think about what might attract new students, issues around sustainability, what was currently lacking and what possibilities might be realised with fresh new thinking and a strong student voice. Check out the “Apprentice”-style video the students made to see how they got the pupils all fired up at the start of the day. Alan Sugar eat your heart out.
But the terrifying bit? They had to pitch their ideas to a panel of business people who they’d never met, among peers who they might not be familiar with (imagine how scary an 11 year old girl might find being put on an equal billing with a 15 year old boy?).
That’s where we came in. We talked through what pitching really meant – how it’s not just for those people who end up on Dragon’s Den, but how you need to pitch, to persuade, in the workplace, every day. Whether it’s getting a job, presenting ideas to your line manager or colleagues, persuading your team to come on board to your way of thinking, pitching is at the heart of everything we do in the workplace. But sometimes, the stakes are higher (who can honestly say they look forward to presenting at a board meeting?).
The students avidly listened to our tips on how to ground research and insight into their pitch, how to create an anecdote to build rapport, how to show credibility and how to demonstrate their USP. They also learned all the things not to do (cue a bunch of teenagers who instantly stopped fiddling with their hair) – we’re confident that they’re all going to be brilliant at maintaining eye contact with any future colleagues or clients.
And us? We loved every minute. The buzz we got from being around the same people who make it all worthwhile for you as leaders, will keep us going for months.
But equally nice was the the warm fuzzy feeling we had when we received this from the headteacher, Jan Shapiro: “We cannot thank the business volunteers enough. They significantly contributed to a day which was creative, forward-looking and inspiring for both students and staff. The learning from the day will continue to reverberate for our students. We look forward to building on their learning and can’t wait for the next one!”
If you are doing something similar in your school, feel free to use the crib sheet we used with the students – and let us know how it goes. Here’s to raising the calibre of the future Apprentice candidates!
Thanks to Employment Ready Events for organising and making this possible.