NO SINGLE sector has a monopoly on good ideas or practices. That is why I have long advocated more effective and longer lasting links between the worlds of education and industry.
Learning a lesson from industry is no longer an empty catchphrase. As part of its remit to improve the quality of teaching and training for teaching, the Teacher Training Agency has given education-industry links a high priority in the debate about the raising of standards. We have involved industrialists in a range of initiatives in the belief that best practice should be disseminated widely, whether from industry, education or other sectors.
The agency has emphasised the role of industry for a number of reasons. From teacher placements through to the participation of industry in the development of standards and qualifications for the profession, the agency has ensured that a partnership that exists in spirit is put into action. Some of this work is being done by us, but much is done by schools working directly with industry.
Teacher placements in industry are an obvious starting point. We need to ensure that such placements are meaningful and add value to all concerned. It is the responsibility of all good teachers to keep abreast of latest developments in education, particularly in their specialist subjects.
So, for example, new technology and science teachers will gain invaluable insights through industry placements.
Such a relationship is not, of course, one-sided. Increasingly, employers recognise the value of their managers and other staff working alongside teachers. The notion of public service is back in vogue and is central to generating a spirit of partnership in education and other sectors.
In the same way that teachers benefit from closer working relations with industry, industrialists now recognise the value of such arrangements to their own staff in career development and progression terms.
At a time when modern organisations recognise the importance of staff development and investment in training, opportunities to work alongside schools and teachers are beginning to flourish. Consequently, the initiative for these developments often stems directly from industry. Many are also conscious of the importance of including pupils in such arrangements.
Arrangements that involve the industrialist, teacher and pupil are being set up with the involvement of a number of key players on the UK and European markets.
At the TTA, we have been working closely with a number of major companies who have invested considerable resources into providing a wealth of excellent materials to support teachers. The best and most sustained use of these is made when their introduction is supported by well-targeted and focused training to give teachers not just understanding but also confidence. An increasing number of these companies are now looking at how they can invest more directly in teachers' skills and tie in their investment with our professional development framework.
The TTA's teacher recruitment and supply team is also investing a great deal of time and energy developing close links with companies with an interest in teacher recruitment. We are working with Understanding British Industry to develop a scheme which will smooth the path of those wishing a change of career, from business or industry intoteaching.
Teaching as a profession is changing. The professional framework of standards and qualifications that the TTA is developing is playing a significant role in bringing about that change. Starting with new standards for the award of Qualified Teacher Status and going through to training for future headteachers and for serving headteachers as well, the agency has emphasised the importance of effective links between schools and the community, including business and industry. On the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers, for example, the new leadership and management qualification for those aspiring to headship, we have involved key industrialists in developing course modules, especially the core, compulsory module on strategic leadership and accountability.
It is refreshing to note that the trend of one-way traffic from schools to industry is now being reversed, or is at least being put on a more equal footing. Greater and more effective links between schools and industry now also involve scientists, for example, and business people working in and alongside primary and middle schools.
Industry has much to contribute. So does education. Working together in a spirit of partnership can only benefit those for whom such links are most important: the pupils whose levels of achievement must be improved if the UK is to compete effectively with the world's leading economies.
* Anthea Millett is chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency