Aiming higher at school

June 01, 1993

Aiming higher at school

June 01 1993

by Mike Tuffrey

Britain is falling behind its international competitors: are weaknesses in the education system partly to blame?

Today half of British 9-13 year olds do worse than their peers in countries like South Korea, Hungary and China. Only 30% of school leavers go into higher education, compared to 65% in Germany. Yet by the year 2,000, an estimated 40% of all jobs in Britain will require a degree standard. It is facts like these that has prompted a new campaign to get business working in partnership to improve education.

The Aim High initiative, launched by Michael Heron, Chairman of the Post Office, on May 26, has two objectives:

to help prepare all young people for the skills, challenges and responsibilities of a rewarding career and active citizenship;

to up-skill the future workforce and improve the international business competitiveness of the UK economy.


“This is a campaign, almost a crusade, to get business and education working together to help develop a learning society for all,” said Michael Heron at the launch. “For generations we have invested in an elite to lead and manage, and underdeveloped the majority. Our new initiative is called Aim High to focus on aspiration and achievement. It is a challenge to business to work more effectively with teachers and monitor the results; a challenge to youth to improve their qualifications; and a challenge to education to get the most out of business support.”

So the two key elements are:

to encourage business to do much more in schools and colleges, to monitor the impact on levels of achievement with teachers and to help reach the National Targets for foundation learning;

to inspire and motivate young people to set their sights higher and achieve higher skills and qualifications for the challenges of future work and citizenship.

Practical pathways

These high ambitions cannot be realised without practical means of giving them effect. So ten “Pathways to Achievement” offer the effective ways for companies to get involved. Many companies are undertaking some already, but Aim High encourages all to broaden their activities.

1. Compacts – agreements between young people, schools and local businesses which set goals with incentives for course completion and achievement of qualifications, and support those at risk of failing or dropping out

2. Curriculum development – opening sites for visits and placements, providing materials, equipment and people with expertise to work with teachers or tutor young people

3. Mentoring – personal support to young people, helping them set goals, plan career paths and achieve more

4. Personal challenges and enterprise projects – to develop core skills and competencies for employment

5. Governors and managers – encouraging experienced staff, especially parents, to become business governors and providing management expertise and training

6. Work experience – to provide challenging placements so young people aged 15-19 experience a range of work tasks, with quality preparation and review

7. Teacher development – providing placements, access to in-house training courses and training sessions in schools and colleges

8. Careers – to support careers education and guidance programmes and help promote National Records of Achievement

9. Parents and out-of-school support – to inform and support parents and young people and create access to books and homework or study centres

10. Education 16-19 – to support and recognise vocational courses and qualifications and provide bursaries to enable more young people to continue their studies for advanced or Level III qualifications and beyond.


The campaign is responding to three main weaknesses perceived in business support for education at present. First, activity is not yet strong across the board, with mentoring and out-of-school projects generally weak compared to (say) curriculum resource materials and work experience.

Second, while many companies have good policies and the commitment of senior management, fewer place education programmes in their mainstream business objectives and very few highlight it in communications to customers and suppliers.

Third, and most important, the monitoring of the impact of business support for education, has hardly started.

Michael Heron believes that Aim High campaign get the whole of business united around the practical means of giving support and that they will lead to improved standards. For the sake of the youngsters themselves, as well as the future prosperity of the country, let’s hope he is right.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 10 – June, 1993