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Business lukewarm on school contacts

Another depressing message for the Scottish Executive over one of its flagship education policies emerged this week in a survey of what small businesses know of enterprise in education.

The answer, from System Three research conducted among almost 500 employers, appears to be "not a lot". The study found "a high degree of confusion surrounding enterprise in education", which is now packaged as the Determined to Succeed policy.

Commissioned by the Executive, the research had an alarming message for ministers: "Respondents were not familiar with the term, and were unsure what activities were included in it. Consequently, respondents in the main survey did not know if they were involved in the scheme or not."

The Executive's policy is based partly on a major expansion of school involvement with businesses, yet these survey results suggest small and medium-size employers are lukewarm.

Even those who already have an association with schools take some convincing that they are gaining much: just over half (57 per cent) felt they had derived "some" benefit from their involvement with schools, 33 per cent pointed to a "slight" benefit and 11 per cent could not think of any benefit at all.

Determined to Succeed, which is being supported with pound;44 million from 2003-06 and a similar sum for 2006-08, envisages that partnership agreements should be drawn up between schools and businesses by 2006, the aim being five agreements for each school cluster - making 2,000 in total.

The Executive's plans also require every pupil from P1 to S6 to have an entitlement to enterprise activities once a year, and that all pupils aged over 14 must have the chance of work-based vocational learning.

The System Three survey recommends a publicity blitz to make employers more aware, particularly in promoting business benefits not just gains for pupils. There may be scope for success in that 47 per cent of businesses not involved with schools said they would be likely to become involved if they were contacted.

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