Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, the first school to be sponsored by the Foundation is one eleven schools from eleven countries across Europe which have won the Entrepreneurial School of the Year Award 2015, a national and European recognition of the best schools championing entrepreneurship education.
The awarded schools have been selected based on diverse criteria, such as the inclusion of a vision and strategy in entrepreneurship education, specific resource allocations, teachers’ training, or the engagement of the local community and business sector. These criteria follow the objectives of Europe 2020, the EU’s growth strategy for the coming decade. It notably aims to enhance creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training.
The celebration will take place on 15 October, in the presence of Members of the European Parliament, European Commission officials and 11 school representatives from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. They will meet in Brussels for a working session and ceremony hosted in the European Parliament by MEP Michaela Sojdrova.
Opening in 2008, DACA was the first school in the country to specialise in Entrepreneurship. It has grown from 735 students in 2008 to over 1300 in 2015, becoming the borough’s largest school.
Entrepreneurship has led to this success. The Academy employs an Entrepreneurship Team and houses an Entrepreneurship Bridge consisting of 11 incubation units (pods), free for under 25’s who reside in the local area. The Entrepreneurship Team are employed by the Academy and includes the Assistant Principal. Since 2013 the students have participated in 14720 entrepreneurial activities, 63 in national enterprise competitions, 400 work placements, 42 start-up businesses, 1500 in international experience; and 428 adult courses; record numbers entering university, 70% being the first in their family to do so.
Academy Principal Brendan Loughran said; “We are delighted to receive this international recognition for our work. We know from our experience that building an education around an entrepreneurial mind-set based on developing positive attitudes makes a big difference in schools. The achievement is testimony to the dedication and commitment of everyone who has worked with us in creating what is widely recognised as a very successful school.”
Sir Rod Aldridge said: “We established the Aldridge Foundation because an entrepreneurial education can transform young peoples’ lives, and I am very proud that our first Academy in Darwen has received this recognition for doing just that. By focusing on the development of entrepreneurial qualities, rather than only teaching business, students combine academic success with the confidence to solve problems and not accept defeat. As we have seen in Darwen, this changes students’ life chances as they enter university and the world of work, and it makes a difference to their community.”