Bright sparks with initiative

John Crews EBP manager, Somerset

The kind of template the Government has in mind for education business partnerships can be seen in Somerset, where one organisation runs nearly all the county's partnership activities: work experience for 5,000 young people, the teacher placement contract for 330 teachers, a mentoring programme in 15 schools in the county, 750 adult volunteer mentors.

"The transition skills project focused on disaffected young people, careers education and guidance in schools, careers INSET, quality standards, vocational work, key skills for GNVQ ... the list appears to be endless.

"We have one EBP that effectively covers the whole of the county," says Somerset's manager John Crews. "There are three principal funding partners: Somerset Careers, Somerset LEA and Somerset TEC."

The partnership operates as a business unit within Somerset Careers. "That's partly because we feel there are direct benefits between the work of careers education and guidance." There's an advisory group with representation from all three, as well as business representation and school and FE involvement - includng the independent schools. A rural area like Somerset obviously creates challenges.

"The community school in West Somerset has a catchment area of 6,000 square miles," says Crews. "Things like work experience placements for some of those youngsters can be difficult because the range of employment is restricted by the geography."

Is the EBP the logical lead body for the county? Crews is reluctant to confirm that. He's aware that the new organisations will be about partnership and collaboration, and the key decisions have yet to be taken. But the process has started.

"We've had meetings about how we are going to take programmes forward. I think the preferred option would be for the EBP to be the lead partner working with a consortium of other partners, but other solutions could be put forward."

Crews feels the priority for the new lead body will be to initiate discussions with employers about what they would like to see from the programme.

And, like others, he would like to see a co-ordinated package of education business products, "a portfolio we could take to schools and employers".

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