Business goes back to school

October 01, 1992

A radical shake-up of the schools system is on the cards and businesses are yet again being asked to do more.

The government’s latest plans for education, published on July 28 in a white paper Choice and Diversity – a new framework for schools, promises to be the most profound yet, with the long term aim of eliminating local authority involvement. The white paper envisages an enlarged role for business and industrial sponsors, particularly in support of schools specialising in technology, science and languages. Such specialist schools will offer businesses up to four sponsor-governors in return for making a “substantial contribution”. The current fifteen city technology colleges will be joined by a wider chain of technology schools, with existing schools eligible to apply for additional government funding to specialise.

The greater responsibilities, particularly for budgeting and planning, given to schools under LMS (local management of schools) has already placed pressures on companies to provide governors and expert advice. This trend is likely to increase as the government moves towards its target of funding 75% of schools directly, rather than via local education authorities. ContactDepartment for Education on 071 925 5000.

A survey of 812 headteachers carried out for the National Association of Head Teachers and published in July shows that local management of schools has lead to more effective use of resources but at the price of placing increased workloads and unacceptable pressures on headteachers. There is greater involvement in decision taking by governing bodies, but no evidence of educational improvement is yet apparent. The research was undertaken by the University of Birmingham School of Education. Contact David Hart, NAHT, on 0444 458133.

The Teacher Placement Service has published a new guide for business people considering a short placement in education. Illustrated with case studies, Break into Education sets out the benefits of a placement and offers practical advice so that both companies and employees get the best out of the experience. Over the last three years, 60,000 teachers have learnt more about business through a placement in industry, and it is hoped to reverse the flow. The report is sponsored by Whitbread. Contact Jan Hussey, Understanding British Industry, on 0865 722585.

Co-inciding with the production of its first British-made engine, Toyota announced on September 7 a Science and Technology Education Fund to grant fund projects between schools and local businesses. The aim is to improve science and technology teaching within the national curriculum and grants of £500 – £1,000 will be offered through Education Business Partnerships to suitable projects. Toyota has committed £130,000 to finance a pilot scheme in the first year of what should become an expanded three year programme. The grants will be made in October and the School Curriculum Industry Partnership will help to evaluate the Fund. Toyota’s first British-made car is due to roll off its new Derbyshire production line in December 1992. Contact Stuart Dyble, Toyota, on 071 287 7171.

CSV’s student mentoring project, Learning Together, raised £1.5 million during the Lord Mayor of London’s Appeal. At a celebration in the Guildhall on September 21, Sir Brian Jenkins announced that over 50 separate schemes had been established, with support from a wide range of businesses including the five Principal Partners, BP, BT, National Power, NatWest and Royal Mail. In one project supported by BP -a school in Pimlico, London, and Imperial College – two thirds of pupils reported learning more in classes with a student tutor and three quarters of teachers found lessons easier to handle. Contact Roger Mortlock, CSV, on 071 278 6601.

Business and university leaders have identified the need for up to £3 billion capital spending on buildings if government targets for increased student numbers by the end of the century is to be achieved. The Council for Industry and Higher Education, chaired by John Raisman, formerly Deputy Chairman of BT, published at the end of July an assessment of higher education policy, Investing in Diversity. This also says companies who fund academic research with commercial potential still want government to continue to fund fundamental and strategic work. Contact Patrick Coldstream on 071 387 2171.

In a consultation paper published on September 7, the British Institute of Management, called for the replacement of A Levels with a broader qualification covering six subjects, including both academic and vocational subjects, to run along side NVQs and GNVQs. The BIM says that too many young people are branded as failures because they cannot achieve A Level standards and that Britain cannot afford to continue producing illiterate engineers and innumerate scientists. The BIM represents 80,000 managers. Contact Andrew Stark, BIM, on 071 497 0580.

For the first time a woman has won the Young Engineer for Britain Award, organised by the Engineering Council with sponsorship from British Gas, Lloyd’s Register and NatWest. The awards scheme, which aims to encourage young people to take up engineering, was held in London on September 16 and a range of specialist awards were also made, including for environmental and information technology projects. The three top prize winners were all Year in Industry students, a separate scheme to encourage young people into industry by organising year-long placements in industry for students between school and college. Some 300 students benefit each year. Contact Ron Kirby, Engineering Council, on 071 240 7891 or Brian Tripp, Year in Industry, on 061 275 4396.


Education has long been one of the most fruitful areas for partnership between companies and their local communities. Quality schooling is of great concern both to employees as parents and to firms as employers. There are now hundreds of ‘compact’ partnerships in virtually every town. Thousands of teachers and pupils gain a better understanding of industry each year. That can only be good.

No one in industry wants to absolve the state from its primary duty to educate the nation and the next generation of workers. So it can also only be for the good if companies can bring ‘business-like’ skills to the management of education. But there has to be a line beyond which tax revenue, not community contribution, is applied. Many felt that the original City Technology Colleges went too far, and resisted intense pressures, at the very highest level, to get involved. The latest plans show the government has learnt some lessons. It has a clear vision of what it wants for education. The task for business now is to be equally clear – to study the proposals and decide where to draw that line.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 6 – October, 1992