Brown means business

29th June 2007 at 01:00
New PM to chair strategic national council of industry and education leaders

GORDON BROWN will drive his plan to bring business and schools together by taking an even more hands-on role in education policy than his predecessor, The TES has learnt.

The new Prime Minister is expected to chair the National Council for Educational Excellence, which will set out the strategic direction for education policy.

And Mr Brown is determined that commerce should play a much bigger role. He has collected a high-powered cadre of business leaders to serve as the first five members of the national council.

They include Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive, and Damon Buffini, head of the private equity firm Permira.

Mr Brown wants schools to have individual business partners to help with activities such as mentoring. The plan is an extension of the original philosophy behind trust schools, although there is no suggestion the partners would have any say in running schools.

John Dunford, the Association of School and College Leaders' general secretary said: "I don't think business has ever made a significant contribution to education and it is time it started. If this provides a vehicle for that to happen, it will be a lot better than the carping from the CBI and the Institute of Directors we have become used to."

Heads, teachers, parents and representatives from the higher education and voluntary sectors will also be appointed to the council, which is likely to have a role beyond scrutiny, in policy-making.

In some respects the council will resemble the standards task force set up by New Labour in 1997, which was partially responsible for the national literacy and numeracy strategies, but the task force was made up of only senior education figures.

As The TES went to press on Mr Brown's first night as Prime Minister, government sources suggested that the Department for Education and Skills was to be split, in a radical re-organisation with potentially huge consequences for the 14 to 19 agenda.

A new children's department was being proposed to look after education up to the age of 16 and possibly between 16 and 18, taking in elements of health and social services. Under these proposals, skills and vocational education for 16 to 18-year-olds would come under a separate department.

It was anticipated that Alan Johnson was to leave his job as Education Secretary.

* For latest details, www.tes.co.uk

Brown makes mischief, page 10 Leading article, page 26

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