Business links fail to make much impact

29th June 2001 at 01:00
A new TES survey shows that the Government's vision of a mutually beneficial active enterprise culture in schools has simply not happened. Clare Dean and Ian Nash report

BUSINESS links with schools have little or no impact on raising standards or improving pupil motivation, a TES survey reveals today. Just 24 schools out of the 150 surveyed in England and Wales said there had been any real benefits in terms of academic achievement or enhancing the delivery of the national curriculum.

Only two more schools said that the involvement of business had led to considerable gains among pupils' attitudes and attendance. And just 12 had a clear strategy for working with business.

The survey, carried out with the National Association of Head Teachers and Business in the Community, comes just a week after the Government launched a drive to extol the virtues of business in schools.

Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), is to head a major review into enterprise in schools and colleges.

Chancellor Gordon Brown wants every young person to hear about business and enterprise in school and for "every teacher to be able to communicate the virtues and potential of business and enterprise".

The findings from the TES survey show what a tough job he has in persuading schools to adopt an enterprise culture.

David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "Education business links are not an add-on. They provide mainstream support for delivery of the curriculum and this Government has not got its act together.

He added: "If it is important to have a national strategy for literacy and numeracy, it is equally important to have a strategy for supporting the role of business in schools. Where schools have brought in business, much has been done to improve leadership and management. This needs to be reinforced vigorously."

Philip Robinson, community affairs director of the FSA, said: "I am not surprised by the results of the survey. You need an effective local education business partnership to act as a go-between.

"If you don't have that, schools and businesses end up talking a different language."

The TES survey highlights a growing divide between the level of business support for the well-resourced secondary sector and under-funded primary schools.

There is also a strong north-south split, with the vast bulk of effort from business concentrated south of the Humber.

One-in-three schools had no business involvement. The overwhelming majority of these were primary or middle schools. Half the primary schools had five or fewer link companies. But, of the 30 survey schools with more than 10 companies giving active support, only one was a primary.

Almost half of the heads surveyed believed there were mutual benefits in schools and businesses working together. And Barry Day, head of Greenwood Dale in Nottingham, said: "These experiences are essential if we are to generate a modern, efficient work force."

But heads believe that companies are increasingly concentrating their fire on areas prominent in the public eye, such as education action zones.

Ann Driscoll, head St Saviour's Catholic Infants, said: "We are less than a quarter of a mile from schools in the EAZ. We can see, but not feel, the benefits. We are fundraising left, right and centre, while schools in the EAZ are dripping with money."

A Plymouth primary school head commented: "I have applied for business involvement supporting reading in school but nothing has come out of this."

Two-thirds of schools replying to questions about curriculum support saw little or no benefit from business involvement in raising standards of achievement in core subjects. One of the biggest benefits was in preparing secondary-age pupils for the world of work. Of those who replied to the question, two-thirds reported significant or considerable benefits. Initiatives supporting school management and leadership had not penetrated very deeply, despite the high-profile, business-supported Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers.

Just one in five schools said businesses provided headteacher support, teacher placements and support for school governance.


* 41 schools out of 150 had no business links * 30 schools were working with at least 10 companies

* 63 schools said there was little or no benefit from business involvement in raising standards of achievement in core subjects

* 26 schools believed business links had improved pupil motivation and attendance

* 73 schools recognised there were mutual benefits l12 schools had a clear strategy for working with business to raise standards

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