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Firms shun poorer areas

Businesses seem reluctant to form links with disadvantaged pupils who need their help most, reports Stephen Lucas

Schools in deprived areas are struggling to build the links with business that the Government says are essential, a leading ministerial adviser said this week.

Sir Howard Davies, architect of the Government's drive to promote a sense of enterprise in schools, told The TES: "Businesses are enthusiastic to become involved but are not necessarily in areas where they are most needed.

"Schools in relatively prosperous areas find it easy to establish links, but schools where two-thirds of pupils are from single-parent families or where parents are unemployed do not have the local business links."

The comments by Sir Howard, director of the London School of Economics, came during the first national enterprise week, as schools showcased their work building links with companies and encouraging entrepreneurship among pupils.

From next September, enterprise will be a compulsory part of the curriculum. All pupils will be entitled to have five "enterprise experiences" at secondary school under a pound;60 million scheme.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is the driving force behind the change as he tries to create an "enterprise economy".

Yet surveys this week suggested many schools have a long way to go to implement the policies and questioned whether staff have the necessary knowledge.

A poll of 200 teachers last May by Trident Trust, the educational charity, found that only 27 per cent had recent industry experience. Paul Poulter, Trident's chief executive, said: "It does not help the teacher prepare the pupil for business if the teacher has not had recent business experience."

Business is part of the curriculum in only 38 per cent of rural schools, according to education charity businessdynamics which has run projects in 134 schools. In cities, the figure was 54 per cent.

Its chairman Sir Paul Judge said: "Many teachers do not have training.

English teachers could look at Middlemarch or Jane Austen. There is a lot about people going bankrupt there."

Work experience is another problem area. In September, John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said that for many youngsters, it meant making tea in offices.

This week a survey by the City and Guilds exam board, revealed that 71 per cent of UK businesses were unhappy about the way work placement schemes operate.

And some teachers are sceptical. Michael Ramey, head of history at Aylward secondary, Edmonton, north London, said: "Business and enterprise has its place, but we seem to be squeezing as many different things into subjects as we can. The amount of time history has in the curriculum is limited enough."

Ministers are addressing the need to train teachers. Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, this week unveiled a package to give teachers business know-how. And the Sharing Enterprise programme, designed by Trident Trust, enables teachers to spend a day getting to grips with the London Stock Exchange.

Not all of the news on school-business links is bad. According to a businessdynamics poll in September, the number of students wanting to run their own business rose from 35 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2004.

Teaching enterprise

Draft government guidance on how to teach enterprise says it should include:

* enterprise capability - creating and implementing ideas, working in a team and assessing risk

* financial capability - managing one's own finances and understanding financial services

* business and economic understanding - including concepts such as "market", and "competition"

* an enterprise project in a work-based context Enterprise education will be inspected from 2005 and is part of work-related learning, which is a statutory requirement at key stage 4

school, in Wigan

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