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Hunter's ambition benefits Glasgow

Another significant milestone in the involvement of the business world in schools will be announced today (Friday) in the form of a "Trojan horse"

initiative from the Hunter Foundation.

It is to plough more cash into areas facing the toughest challenges in Scotland, creating six additional "schools of ambition". The Scottish Executive and the one education authority which will be involved in the venture will also make a financial contribution over three years.

The foundation, headed by millionaire entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, says it is not yet in a position to name the authority or the sums involved. But, given that it wants to work in schools "where a significant portion of pupils have been identified as potentially NEET (not in education, employment or training)", it is almost certain to be Glasgow.

As for financial support, the six new schools involved can expect to receive no less than the pound;300,000 over three years awarded to each of the 20 schools currently in the schools of ambition programme.

Ewan Hunter, chief executive of the Hunter Foundation, told The TES Scotland: "We would like to get to a model where we are engaging pupils, parents and teachers - as well as critical community and health support - to drive opportunities for everyone involved.

"Moreover, by taking a collegiate approach with six schools, we hope we can enable them to act as a Trojan horse for innovation and change that proves you can stem the flow of children into the NEET group."

The lessons learnt would be shared with everyone in education, Mr Hunter pledged.

The initiative to target the NEET group represents another step to prevent 16-19s sliding into the abyss when they move out of full-time education.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister made a high-profile visit to Our Lady and St Patrick's High in Dumbarton on Monday to announce that a national NEET group was being established to reduce the size of this group, which the Executive now estimates includes around 25,000 young people at any one time.

Jack McConnell and Nicol Stephen were accompanied by Sir Tom and by Sir Robert Smith, chairman of the Weir engineering company, who will head the Smith Group. This will consist of the tightly knit group of representatives from the education and business worlds associated with Sir Tom and his foundation.

The involvement of the foundation means that the existing initiatives it funds, notably the Determined to Succeed enterprise education strategy and the drive to improve school leadership, will be at the heart of measures to improve the fortunes of pupils who face an uncertain future.

The role of careers advisers will also be a key factor, with the Smith Group thought to favour placing an adviser in every secondary school. Mr McConnell said on Monday that there should be more careers officers in schools.

Sir Robert commented: "Without exaggeration, this is Scotland's greatest challenge - 20 per cent of our young people are destined to become NEET and it has to stop." Independent analysis had shown one NEET individual costs the taxpayer pound;100,000.

It emerged this week that the Smith Group has been informally advising ministers on Determined to Succeed and the Schools of Ambition programme for the past nine months, and this is now on a formalised footing.

Apart from Sir Robert and Sir Tom, the group consists of businessmen Willie Haughey, Jim McColl and Chris van der Kuyl. Close education associates of Sir Tom are also members: John Mulgrew, director of education in East Ayrshire; Peter Galloway, head of Trinity Academy in Edinburgh; and Christine Wilson, head of Langside primary in Glasgow.

Roy Jobson, Edinburgh's director of education, and Ewan Aitken, his political boss and education spokesperson for the local authorities, are the other members.

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