The business of bettering schools

August 01, 1993

A new initiative to give disadvantaged teenagers a second chance at education was launched in Tower Hamlets, east London, on July 13, bringing together the local education authority, the charity Cities in Schools and the restaurant chain, Burger King. The Burger King Academy in Docklands, modelled on the successful initiative in the US where 26 Academies operate, offers teenagers personalised and intensive tuition, with close links to the world of work through placements and visits. Most of the running costs are met by the local authority, but Burger King provides some revenue support and has funded the building refurbishment along with Grand Met Trust and other donors.

Non-attendance at school, estimated to affect 200,000 children in Britain, has a long term affect on development – seven out of ten habitual truants leave school with no examination passes. The charity Cities in Schools coordinates resources from all the sectors to help young people in danger of dropping out. Founded in New York in the 1970s, it started in Britain in 1990, with support from Grand Metropolitan, and now helps 700 youngsters in east London, with schemes planned or running in seven other cities. Contact James Laird, Burger King, on 071 373 4537 or Lynda Smith, Cities in Schools, on 071 247 9489

Plans by the Prince’s Trust to establish more Study Centres to assist disadvantaged young people outside normal school hours has received a boost with a £100,000 package of support from BT, as part of its support work in education. Some 30 Centres are already operational, offering help with confidence-building, study skills and achievement through schemes like evening tuition and weekend residential courses. BT’s funding will support a national conference, a study pack, publication of an evaluation of existing Centres and a bursary fund to open new Centres. Contact Richard Redden, BT, on 071 356 5385

A significant minority of young people have a serious problem with essential basic skills, and a larger number have a lower level than is required by the demands of everyday life and work. That is the conclusion of a study of 1,650 people born in April 1970 undertaken by City University for ALBSU, the independent charity grant funded by the Department for Education. Among the findings are:

23% could not calculate 10 per cent of £4,900;

12% admitted to difficulties with reading, writing, spelling or basic maths;

one in ten left school with no qualifications at all; and

nearly two thirds of those experiencing difficulties with literacy and just over half with numeracy have parents also suffering the same problems.

A recent survey of 400 companies by ALBSU estimated that the cost to industry of poor skills is £4.8 billion a year through costs such as rectifying mistaken orders. Contact Stephen Wallace on 071 405 4017

The National Literacy Association launched a campaign on July 1 called 99 by 99 to ensure that by 1999, 99% of children leave school with adequate literacy. Each year an estimated 100,000 young people leave school with skills so poor many are unable to fill in an application form. As part of the campaign, people are being invited to pledge their support, with McDonalds Restaurants being the national pledge point with a poster and leaflet display in all branches. Contact Charlie Griffiths, NLA, on 0425 272232

Over 40% of school governors take time off work for their governing body duties, with a quarter of these losing earnings as a result, according to a survey published in July by the Department for Education. Among the other findings:

at least a quarter of governors work in industry and commerce;

white men are over-represented compared to the population as a whole; and

the vacancy rate on governing bodies is about 10%, but is thought to be falling.

A separate study of companies, published in the autumn of 1992, showed that around half of large employers offer some kind of support for governors, usually through reasonable paid time off. However only one in three companies maintain records of the number of employee governors and only one in six have actively promoted governorship in the workplace. Contact Richard Laskier, DFE, on 071 925 6336

Nine in ten pupils were involved in work experience placements during their last year of compulsory schooling, according to a detailed statistical study of school-business links, published by the Department for Education. One in ten primary schools and half of secondary schools have at least one teacher on secondment to a business. The findings come from the 1991/92 academic year and are published in DFE Statistical Bulletin 10-93.

Meanwhile a practical guide to school-business links has been published by the government, with support from Esso. Building Effective School-Business Links covers planning, management, staff development, curriculum issues and evaluation, as well as setting out the potential benefits for businesses themselves. It is written by Andrew Miller of the School Curriculum Industry Partnership at Warwick University. Contact DFE on 071 925 5000 or 081 533 2000 for free copies of Building Effective School-Business Links

The Audit Commission has uncovered “green shoots” of impropriety in the management of school finances, following an investigation, published on June 11 as Adding up the Sums: schools’ management of the finances. While the majority of schools are operating well, some have abused the additional freedom arising from devolved budgets and have not put in place proper systems of accountability.

New standards are recommended, including an accountability r”le for governors, in a companion report, Keeping your Balance: standards for financial administration in schools, published on June 15 by OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) and the Audit Commission. Contact Audit Commission on 071 930 6077 or OFSTED on 071 925 6800

Hard on the heels of Tesco’s Computers for Schools marketing initiative, other retailers have launched education tie-in campaigns. Running for fourteen weeks from June until September, WH Smith is offering up to £500 in books to primary schools. Shoppers receive a voucher for every £2 spent, each voucher being worth 10p. John Menzies has also launched a nearly identical scheme, running from July to September, open to all schools. Contact Jane Simmonds, WH Smith, on 071 584 7669 or Mark Gould, John Menzies, on 031 225 8555

Lever Bros, makers of Persil, launched a “public purpose” marketing initiative at the end of May to carry the message of health and fitness into homes and schools across the country. Backed by medical expert Dr Miriam Stoppard, Persil Funfit has three main elements: an awards scheme for kids to win certificates for accomplishing non-competitive exercises; an activity pack for pre-school organisations and primary schools, in line with the national curriculum; and a collection scheme to obtain sports equipment for schools. Persil are investing £1 million in the first year of the three year programme which has been award a Sportsmatch grant under the need funding incentive scheme run by the Institute of Sports Sponsorship on behalf of the Department of National Heritage. The scheme will start in the autumn term and run through to July next year. Contact Nigel Whitefield, Alan Pascoe Associates, on 071 379 5220 or the public freephone number 0800 212096

More than 260 schools in 25 countries have joined an international science education project developed jointly by BP and the Association for Science Education. Science Across Europe was launched in Brussels in May to encourage the study of science through the exchange of information between schools in different countries and aims to have 2,000 schools across Europe participating by the end of next year. Schools are provided with modules on a series of subjects, with maps, back-ground data and teachers’ notes. Pupils then exchange information and compare findings with other schools across Europe. Contact Ramilla Shah, BP, on 0442 232323

A programme devised in the UK to help students develop skills useful for future employment is being extended into continental Europe. On June 7 personnel managers from France, Italy and Germany met at a seminar in Nice organised by Wellcome Foundation and attended by head teachers from the European Secondary Heads Association. The need for better personal skills, not just academic qualifications, was highlighted, given the common problems with long term structural unemployment in most European countries. The Wellcome Personal Effectiveness Project originated in north west England in 1991 with support from South and East Cheshire TEC and subsequently BP and the Department for Education sponsored a national resource pack to develop the concept across the UK. Contact Jane Romanowska, Wellcome Foundation, on 071 387 4477

The Partnership Trust is undertaking a feasibility study into a system of quality awards in the 600 Sixth Form and Further Education Colleges. Commissioned by the Further Education Funding Council for England, the study will identify marketing opportunities for sponsor companies and will draw on the experience of the existing Partnership Trust awards in higher education. Contact Ricarda O’Driscoll on 071 839 6101

Glaxo Holdings is to endow the University of Liverpool with £1 million to fund a new chair in clinical pharmacology, the science of studying drugs in humans, it was announced on July 15. This is the seventh chair which Glaxo has funded at academic institutions in the UK. Glaxo also announced grants worth £500,000 to five medical research charities, including the British Digestive Foundation and the Stroke Association. Contact Philip Connolly, Glaxo, on 081 966 3470

The Wellcome Foundation announced the winners of its Women in Science and Engineering essay awards on July 6. Each year the scheme, run in conjunction with University College London, makes 20 awards to raise awareness among young women of opportunities in higher education and in science and engineering careers. This year the prizes were presented by Dr Bridget Ogilvie, Director of the Wellcome Trust, the grant-making trust endowed with Wellcome Foundation shares. Contact Jane Romanowska, Wellcome Foundation, on 071 387 4477


Perhaps the most telling statistic from the ALBSU survey reported above is that more than half the children seriously underperforming at school have parents who also cannot read or write adequately. With the home background so disadvantageous, it is over ambitious to expect hard-pressed teachers alone to turn the kids around in their short time at school. That’s why the two new initiatives to provide intensive support, out of school hours as well, are so welcome. Burger King Academy brings with it a wealth of experience from the States; BT’s support for Study Centres builds on experience already learnt here. The trouble is intensive support does not come cheap.

Talking of resources, it is interesting to note the three new companies, leaping on to what is fast becoming a public purpose/cause related marketing bandwagon. First it was Tesco with computers, now WH Smith and John Menzies with books and Persil with, well . . . fitness – and with a government grant through Sportsmatch too. Without doubt, public purpose marketing is going to grow across the whole range of community affairs activity, and that, in itself, is to be welcomed unreservedly. But it is ironic that at least 10 times as much money is involved in these three marketing initiatives as in the two projects projects aimed at underperformance.

Meanwhile figures confirming the growth in school governors from commerce and industry coincide with evidence from the Audit Commission that all is not well with financial accountability in devolved schools – a timely reminder of the duties and responsibilities of governors with business experience.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 11 – August, 1993