The first National Enterprise Academy, announced yesterday by prime minister Gordon Brown and Phones International entrepreneur Peter Jones, will open its doors in September 2009, according to a source close to the new scheme.
The first new academy, which aims to teach entrepreneurship to teenagers, will be sited in Buckinghamshire, with the next planned for the north-west in the following year. The aim then is for a national roll-out, in association with educational establishments.
The Enterprise Academy is inspired by Philip Green’s Retail Fashion Academy, the spokesman said, and will draw largely on a rota of real entrepreneurs on short-term contracts to teach its aspiring entrepreneurs students. There will be a small team of full-time teachers.
"Enterprise is creeping into the national curriculum, but when children leave school, nothing picks up on that enthusiasm. The academy will take the baton on," said the spokesman. He insisted that academy graduates would not be left to fend for themselves, but would be mentored and guided into potential sources of finance for their businesses. The new academy would offer an NVQ-style qualification.
Academy graduates would most likely follow one of three paths, the spokesman said: launch their own business; move into an entrepreneurial small business; or go into formal higher education.
The spokesman also said that this was no showbiz stunt. "The idea is not to do X-Factor in the classroom. We want this to be around for years and years and make a lasting difference". He said that this was a "life-long dream" of Peter Jones’.
On the government side, a whiff of spin still lingers. The new academy was launched the day before the Budget, and on the same day as new funds are diverted into enterprise education. But the spokesman confirmed that Peter Jones’ bid to run the new academy has still to receive its final confirmation from the National Skills Academy programme.
The new Enterprise Academy has been welcomed by former "Dragon", Rachel Elnaugh, who said: "It is a great initiative; one step in a much longer journey but at least we are going in the right direction. Congratulations to Peter for having the vision to pioneer it."