In 2008 Personal Effectiveness Training Ltd, PET Ltd was established to draw in further funds and expertise to enable the development of the PLTS version of PET. PET Ltd is now working with –
Schools and Further Education Colleges to tailor PET PLTS to the requirements of schools wishing to use PET within their curriculum and to provide PET Enterprise to those furthering enterprise learning.
Diploma consortia to ensure PET PLTS can meet the needs of diploma consortia to manage PLTS development within the diploma environment.
Matthew Evans, Assistant Head at Forrest School, Berkshire, the person responsible for the methodology and intellectual content of the Personal Effectiveness Tool (PET) has won the BBC National Enterprise Teacher of the Year Award.
Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden presented this prestigious award to Matthew at his school in acknowledgement of the inspiring work that he has done to develop enterprise learning for teachers and students. The impact of his work is being felt well beyond his school, particularly through the marketing of PET, a ground-breaking assessment tool to measure enterprise capability.
In an article for “Snapshots” Matthew reflects on the start up of Perfect Education Ltd, the company that developed PET back in 2006
How a group of enterprise educators learnt to practice what they preach.
The British education system has historically focused more on what students know than what they can do. There are signs that this is beginning to change. Developments in vocational education, work related learning and enterprise signal a growing awareness of the need for schools to develop attitudes and abilities in young people which will help them succeed in an increasingly complex world.
In 2004, a cluster of five Business and Enterprise Colleges (BECs) and two Education Business Partnership’s (EBP’s) in and around Berkshire, in the South of England, started to explore ways in which they could collaborate and share ideas. The forum, which lasted for just over a year, became a think tank for enterprise education and greatly influenced how the senior managers from each organisation developed their enterprise education programmes. One area of debate which absorbed a great deal of time was what should be the outcomes of enterprise learning, and how should these be assessed in a way in keeping with the philosophy of enterprise? The group were taken with the idea of ‘enterprise capabilities’. A capability is the observable manifestation of the attitudes, knowledge and skills associated with being enterprising and, as such, were far more tangible and measurable than the latter. Many of the group developed their own approaches to self-assessment and tracking of enterprise learning which were shared and discussed. However, these mainly paper based, methods were time consuming and difficult to manage. The group were left wondering if there was a better solution.
We all knew that the growing use of technology within schools could hold the solution to the problem of assessing enterprise. Towards the end of 2005, I received an invitation from the Chief Executive Officer at West Berkshire EBP, Amanda Richards, to help develop a solution to our problem. My equivalent at St Bartholomew’s School in Newbury (Berkshire), David Nicholson, another member of the old cluster group, was also present. Between us we determined that we would develop a tool which met our needs as educational providers, and in doing so would meet the needs of other schools searching for a way of assessing enterprise. We had no idea at this point of what this tool would look like, or how big this project would become, and were blissful in our ignorance of the work ahead. PET, the Personal Effectiveness Tool, was born.
It soon became apparent that we needed additional expertise to plan our venture and make it happen (we were learning quickly that the enterprise capabilities we required of our students were not as straight forward as we might have believed). We enlisted the support of Ed Cooper, the Enterprise Hub Director in Newbury (a division of the Greenham Common Trust) who was experienced in supporting small business start-ups. We were surprised to be told that our idea had ‘high growth potential’ and Ed agreed to give his time to getting us up and running. We formed a not-for-profit limited company, Perfect Education (derived from the term personal effectives rather than an over confidence in our talents!), which allowed us to protect us personally from liability whilst ensuring that we stayed focused on our aim of providing useful products to schools, rather than pleasing our shareholders. We were now fully fledged Company Directors and I would never feel like a fraud teaching my Business Studies class again.
Whilst the business took shape, we were acutely aware that we need a product. To develop that we needed money. To get money we needed to demonstrate that we had a good idea and the ability to develop a marketable product.
We brought together a group of talented students from the two schools and spent a day developing product ideas. We wanted to know what they liked and what would engage them enough to want to become involved in the assessment process. These students were amazingly articulate about design, technology and how to best market our ideas to young people. We came away feeling that we had to involve these students more in our project. Therefore, over the Easter holidays in 2006, we employed these students to develop a trial assessment tool. Some students worked on logos, others on fun games to tempt students to use the tool, and others on the more mundane tasks like building a database. The result was a living model of what we wanted to produce and helped us bring alive our vision for the final product. We invited the students to form a ‘Shadow Board of Directors’ and then sent them away to do the important things in life like taking exams, promising to be back in touch when this pressured time was over.
This experience had taught us that students were very important in the process and we resolved to continue this approach. It would also be, we felt, important to the schools that were to eventually purchase the product and distinguish us from the commercial competitors in the educational software market.
Having the right people in our venture proved to be crucial. Amanda’s position at the EBP meant she was very well connected and able to drum up interest in our project. The two teachers were able to spread the word through the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) who continue to be very supportive in our efforts, and through the Schools Enterprise Education Network (SEEN) which had been recently established to promote the enterprise agenda in England and Wales. Eventually, it was Amanda who found a sponsor to get us started. Vodafone, the international telecommunications company, are based in Newbury and were looking to launch a massive community project within Berkshire to support local education. The contract to deliver this project was won by West Berkshire EBP and, by luck, PET was a perfect fit for what Vodafone wanted to achieve. Funding was set aside from the overall budget to get PET off the ground and, after a great deal of hard work, all the jigsaw pieces fell into place.
We quickly set about developing a software brief to put out to tender. In June of 2006 we spent the day with software providers attempting to win the contract. It was like being one of the dragons in Dragon’s Den, a popular BBC TV series in which businesses pitch for finance from a panel of investors, except our teeth probably weren’t as sharp. We were looking for more than a supplier who would do what we paid them to do. We wanted a partner in the ongoing project, one who we could trust and bounce ideas off, making up for our lack of technical expertise. We found the perfect partner in, Parisa Technologies, a small website developer who understood immediately what it was we were trying to do. Months of hard work now followed for me as Product Development Director, much of it during my precious summer break, working to develop our ideas into a full software brief for the programmers to work from. This proved to be the steepest learning curve I have experienced since my early years of teaching.
The product was in production and we started the process of building up national awareness of PET and sparking interest in the product. A promotional website was built, slots at conferences booked and every opportunity taken by us all to tell people about PET. The reaction was outstanding, many Headteachers wanting to buy the product there and then. The pressure built as we realised that we now had to deliver. We had yet to see the finished product and test it in our schools and here we were making promises we hoped we could keep. We stand now, at the edge of the precipice, about to launch PET to a demanding and expectant customer. Will we fly or fall? We believe in our product 100% but does that mean other people will too? Will they buy it? If they do, will it meet their needs as well as we hope? If we succeed, what is the next step for this unusual collaborative enterprise? Only time will tell.
Article written for ‘Snaphots’ educational journal