Case Study

Ballot Street Spice

The award-winning social enterprise is based at Victoria Park Academy in Smethwick.

CETT provide training around the teaching of enterprise in schools as part of their ITT programme. Victoria Park Academy, the school in which CETT is based, are at the forefront of national practice in this area. Victoria Park Academy help their pupils to learn about enterprise and to develop key life skills through their very own school-based social enterprise, ‘Ballot Street’, which also aims to bring people from the local community together. The award-winning social enterprise is based at Victoria Park Academy in Smethwick. Pioneered by Richard Branson as a ‘school for social entrepreneurs’, the school-based business is run by the pupils and owned by the local community, with the aim of bringing people together with real learning opportunities. Ballot Street has been featured on the ITV news as well as in the Independent newspaper.

Ballot Street was first launched almost five years ago at Victoria Park Academy, to help to deliver a well-rounded and broad curriculum for pupils, and to teach pupils the skills which will enable them to thrive and succeed in life. It was also launched to increase engagement with parents and the wider community of Smethwick.

The social enterprise has been bringing local people together ever since through a shared love of food, cooking, and spices.Over 40 different languages are spoken by the pupils of Victoria Park Academy altogether, and this reflects the wide diversity of cultural backgrounds within the local community. With this diversity comes a huge assortment of different cuisine and recipes which are prepared and eaten in homes across Smethwick. What makes so many of these recipes so special is the array of different spices that are uniquely blended together to create amazing flavours.

Ballot Street began by hosting workshops where members of the local community could share their favourite recipes and their use of spice with one another, while also making new friends. At the same time a great deal of research was carried out through the Ballot Street initiative, investigating the different blends of spice used across Smethwick. Based on this research,a range of different blends and fusions of spice were produced by Ballot Street, and packaged so that they could be purchased and enjoyed by everyone!

Ballot Street is to a large extent led by the pupils of Victoria Park Academy, with the support of the school and their teachers. In particular, a board of ‘Spice Ambassadors’, made up of pupils from years 4, 5, and 6, undertake much of the responsibility for the enterprise. The ambassadors get involved in producing, branding, advertising, and selling Ballot Street products,which include Ballot Street’s own spice blends, chai tea and spicy hot chocolate. These products are not only sold to parents, but also online, and around the local community from Ballot Street’s ‘Spice Bike’, and at the local market place once a week. The profits made through selling the products go back into Ballot Street, and help to fund the social initiatives that take place through the enterprise.

The Spice Ambassadors also help to run events and workshops, both for parents, and for children from other schools within Victoria Academies Trust. They have also led a workshop for children at the Westminster Special Secondary School. These workshops involve sharing the story of Ballot Street, cooking together, and blending spices to be shared.

“Through Ballot Street we are developing a generation of children that think differently about what it means to be an entrepreneur. They understand that they can help people and connect to their own communities, and at the same time produce amazing products.”

The workshops which are run by Ballot Street for parents have evolved in recent years; they began simply as an opportunity to cook with others in the local community, and to share recipes and spice blends. However, as Ballot Street has developed over time, so have the workshops, and recent sessions have also included activities such as cake-decorating, learning how to create mehndi designs, and sharing healthy living strategies. One of the key aims of these workshops is to help to boost the confidence of those who attend by providing the opportunity to acquire new skills, as well the chance to socialise with others in the community.

The Ballot Street enterprise is also heavily interwoven into the curriculum at Victoria Park Academy. Every year each year group at the school is given a ‘Ballot Street challenge’. Examples include year 2 growing ingredients for Ballot Street products, year 4 completing a project on the health and medicinal benefits of spices and creating an information pack on the subject, and year 6 designing a new Ballot Street product.

Ballot Street has been very effective in helping pupils to develop entrepreneurial skills,and has also helped them to learn about their local community, and to make a positive impact within it.Ballot Street has also helped pupils to build their self-confidence as they rise to the challenges provided by the enterprise, and has helped to raise aspirations, as pupils realise the amazing things that they can achieve.As one teacher put it, “through Ballot Street we are developing a generation of children that think differently about what it means to be an entrepreneur. They understand that they can help people and connect to their own communities, and at the same time produce amazing products.”

Ballot Street Spice is a social enterprise which blends not only spices, but also innovation, entrepreneurial skills, community cohesion, cultural heritage, learning, aspiration, and friendship. It makes a difference on so many different levels, to the pupils at Victoria Park Academy, to their parents, and also to the wider community of Smethwick.

Inspired by the success of Ballot Street, other schools within Victoria Academies Trust are now beginning to undertake social enterprises of their own. For example, Birchen Coppice primary school are developing their own farm, complete with livestock and crops, and also their own café. The hope is that they will engage the pupils and the local community in the everyday running and maintenance of the farm, and that produce from the farm can be sold at the café for all of the community to enjoy.

Other schools within the Trust are also making plans to create their own social enterprises, and we are very excited to see how each one will take shape and grow in the months and years to come!

For CETT trainees who go on to work within Victoria Academies Trust, there will be ample opportunities to get involved in the exciting social enterprise projects taking place, and to learn new and valuable skills along the way.  Since social enterprise within the Trust is set to continue to expand, new energy and enthusiasm to make a difference will be welcomed with open arms, and we hope that you will choose to join us on our journey!