SEN.SE (Special Educational Needs Somerset Expertise) is a partnership between the special schools and specialist provision within Somerset. The partnerships aims to work with a wide range of organisations, partners, parent/carers and families to equip students with the life skills and qualifications they need to reach their potential as, living as independently and autonomously as they can.
To enable this to happen SEN:SE has embraced the preparation for adulthood agenda. Where there are four key focuses Employment, Independent Living, Good Health and Friends, Relationships & Community. The employment strand of this focus led to a review of the current careers strategy, specifically what programmes should be made available for learners in individual schools, so they are offered a diverse range of opportunities, including increasing work experience opportunities, increased engagement with businesses and developing enterprise activities for students.
As part of the career’s strategy, it was decided that operating a ‘Pop-Up’ Shop would help to raise student’s aspiration and widen their range of experiences, specifically work related. The project would help students develop entrepreneurial skills, making and selling products and identifying their skills and interests for ‘real world’ employment. Students would be tasked with interfacing with customers and developing customer service and professional communications skills.
The project was collaboration between sen:se schools, Somerset County Council, District Councils, charities and businesses. Pop-Up shops ran for a period of 6 weeks and then moved to a different town and this has so far seen a shop open in 4 different locations. The shops are run by the students who sell student made goods, with a focus on these goods being made to a high-quality.
With the help of District Councils and local businesses the project has been able to identify vacant shop premises in towns that are close to the Schools. Project partners have then worked hard to negotiate on the Schools behalf so that the rent and rates are free for the 6 weeks lease. This meant that the cost of the shop and the transport for the project has been very minimal, enabling the project to spend more on the resources needed to make the items to be sold in the shop.
Some examples of the products include jams and chutneys, sweets, candles, plants, dog biscuits and soaps. These items are made as part of their enterprise curriculum and range in price from 50p to £150. To ensure this diverse range of products are made to a high standard, Schools have worked in collaboration with external artists and companies to help design and create these bespoke goods. In the 24 weeks that the shops have been open, they have taken over £10,000!
The project has also gained media attention from the BBC (https://www.facebook.com/158925984178511/videos/548294712678335 ) which has seen their video viewed nearly 285, 000 times and on ITV (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=477131803161315 ) which was aired on their South West news section, which is watched on average by 270,000 people.
The most positive outcome of the project has been to see the impact it has had on the students. Who have all developed or improved on their skills and confidence. Which is reflected in their feedback, with students making comments such as “I really enjoyed the pop-up shop, my favourite part was helping the customers. If the chance came again I would be happy to help. I would like to work in a shop now I have tried it out. the products all looked great in the shop. Sometimes it felt too quiet. I think I gained more confidence.”
Overall, the project has seen a wide range of partners come together to support the students in developing their understanding of how they can run their own business. This support has ranged from artists and companies teaching students about products and how to make them. To local estate agents finding shops that the students can use to sell their goods. They were also helped to achieve financial success through the local media supporting the shops by spreading the awareness of the shops to a wide audience. This has been supplemented by the support and work of the teachers and parents, who have also given up their free time to enable the shop to open both in and outside of school’s hours. Which has shown what can be achieved when a community comes together with the aim of helping others. With the overall outcome being that the students within the schools have had a genuine entrepreneurship experience that will help shape their future choices.