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The Big 13 – Decision Making, Problem Solving & Identifying Opportunities

Good decision making is an essential skill for life. Make intelligent and timely decisions and you’re on the road to success, but a string of poor and ill considered decisions can leave you struggling to get back on track.

Decision making and problem solving are closely linked. For both it is necessary to work out the likely consequences for any course of action, identify and weigh-up pros and cons, evaluate evidence, consider alternatives and choose and implement the best course of action. Identifying opportunities becomes part of this process – it may be that a brilliant opportunity is spotted when a ‘problem’ is being solved. To be able to develop and implement these skills independently through an enterprise activity will build a child’s confidence in their own abilities and judgement.

Case study – Anston Park Juniors Christmas Fair

Staff at Anston Park Junior school have embraced the enterprise agenda with enthusiasm and are always looking to give children the opportunity to make their own decisions and act for themselves.

The outcome of their efforts was evident at the school’s Christmas Fair. In the weeks running up to the event each class had been asked to produce something to sell at the fair. They loaned a small budget and formed companies, applying for positions and identifying their strength and weaknesses. When they started production they identified problems and adapted their work flow appropriately. One company was making teddy bears, but it was becoming tedious and time consuming for the children to do all the sewing. One child suggested they made Do-it-Yourself kits to sell, as everyone agreed it had been fun to make one. So they packaged the components and wrote instructions for assembling them and marketed ‘DIY Bear’ kits.

The morning of the fair parents were greeted at the doors by ‘promoters’ from different companies handing out leaflets, and there were posters everywhere advertising different products.  The children were in charge behind the stalls, shouting their wares and enticing customers to come and take a closer look. Products were flying off the stalls and all the time the children were making decisions about what needed doing next. Every class knew exactly how much they needed to make and when they were in profit.

As time went on, children knocked down prices for gifts that weren’t selling as fast. A six-foot dad was trying buy some 50p note books from one little girl.  He was asking for 2 for 1. But the little girl checked the clock on the wall and saw she still had half an hour selling time (so didn’t need to give her products away), and offered him 3 for 2. He agreed and they shook hands. The little girl was running this stall with a couple of friends and the nearest teacher was 15 feet away. The confidence and canny negotiating displayed in that moment could only have been developed in an atmosphere where she was regularly given the opportunity to make decisions and had the self belief to do so without the re-assurance of a teacher.

The key to success at Anston Park is that enterprise is seen as an approach as well as an explicit activity. The philosophy of fostering independence, encouraging decision making and nurturing self reliance has permeated all classrooms and activities. Teachers are enthusiastic about developing children’s capabilities and inspiring their sense of self belief. Teacher Pam Hosie said:

“Our children are always identifying problems and opportunities, making decisions and taking responsibility; it is actively encouraged.”