Business links takeover

Leaders of school-industry networks welcome colleges' co-ordinating role.

Business-education links for schools are being managed by colleges in many areas as local education authorities lose control of schools.

Three out of four further education and sixth-form colleges have developed education links programmes with industry, according to a survey by the Education Business Partnerships National Network.

Many co-ordinate programmes for neighbouring schools. Schemes are designed to help promote vocational education and business awareness which was intended to be a central part of the national curriculum under the six-year-old Government policy for cross-curricular themes.

The further education input, particularly the co-ordinating role, has delighted leaders of the national network who will be holding the first national conference on business-education links in December.

John Botten, the network director said: "There is clear evidence of disturbing fragmentation of the whole system as local authorities lose control of education."

The survey, carried out in the spring, paints an optimistic picture of the range of schemes. About 150,000 employers, including half of Britain's largest companies, sponsor education-business links. Around three-quarters of all institutions at primary, secondary and tertiary level are involved.

Full details of an updated survey will be published at the conference, which will be preceeded by a national activities week to promote involvement.

"The danger of fragmentation is that many of the lessons will be lost rather than shared," Mr Botten said. He was surprised that primary schools featured so prominently since the main focus of education in industry in the 1980s was the secondary sector. "We find they are more eager than secondary schools," said one FE co-ordinator.

The single biggest initiative in further education, however, is the support scheme for key stage 4. College education-industry co-ordinators candidly said they were in the business of attracting potential recruits at 16. But equally there were a wide range of benefits for schools, which were able to exploit colleges' resources and wide range of staff with industry experience.

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