Business signs up to strategy group

29th June 2007 at 01:00
Tesco, Rolls-Royce and private equity companies, among others, will play a big role in future schools policy as Gordon Brown places business at the heart of his "education nation".

The five business leaders appointed to the new Prime Minister's National Council for Educational Excellence will be joined by representatives from education.

The first members of the new strategic body to be announced are Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive; Sir John Rose, Rolls-Royce's chief executive; Richard Lambert, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry; Bob Wigley, chairman of Merrill Lynch, the investment bankers, and Damon Buffini, boss of the private equity firm Permira.

Companies could also be asked to release some of their best employees mid-career as part of a new Teach Next scheme.

And proposals for "studio schools" are being encouraged. The idea, disclosed by The TES in February, would see 14-19 schools open year round, with in-house businesses allowing pupils work experience during their studies.

Of all the ideas involving enterprise, the most sweeping will give schools their own "business partners".

For Julia Cleverdon, head of Business in the Community, which represents over 700 UK companies, it marks a welcome change in direction. She has been asked to report on how it can be introduced.

"The education and business partnership movement has been steadily diminished in its funding and opportunity, particularly in the past five years," she said, "but when you get these partnerships right, it is a real win, win."

Mick Brookes, the National Association of Head Teachers' general secretary, said: "Industry has traditionally had a go at schools for what they are doing. Now they need to work with us instead of throwing brickbats.

"Hopefully they are going to be up to their necks in (the education agenda), because when it comes to specialist diplomas their involvement will be crucial."

Ms Cleverdon says the will and capacity for businesses to get involved in schools already exists. A framework and examples of good practice was needed to spread partnerships throughout the country, she said.

It is unclear exactly which schools will benefit from business partners. In his Mansion House speech last week, Mr Brown talked of "every single secondary and primary", but in Manchester on Sunday he spoke of "every secondary".

Ms Cleverdon will be particularly pleased if primaries are included. "A lot of our members have been most enthusiastic about primary literacy and numeracy," she said.

She cited Osmani primary in Tower Hamlets, east London, where more than 90 employees of the city bankers Merrill Lynch volunteer as reading partners.

"It doesn't cost the school anything and morale at Merrill Lynch has gone through the roof," she said.

Labour's new agenda for education

Create a National Council for Educational Excellence, bringing together business leaders, heads, teachers, parents and representatives from higher education and the voluntary sector, expected to be chaired by Gordon Brown.

Fundamental review of numeracy teaching.

Schools to have their own individual business partners.

Setting in "key subjects" such as maths, English, science and languages to become the norm.

Proposals for all-age (primary and secondary) and "studio" schools.

Ofsted to be asked to "consider raising the bar" on behaviour.

Pledge to stamp out bullying, in and outside schools.

Training and retraining to help teachers "become expert tutors and subject specialists".

Teach Next programme to encourage talented mid or late career professionals to move into teaching.

Expansion of Teach First, a similar scheme aimed at new graduates.

Every school to work directly with other schools and arts, cultural and sporting communities in their area.

Individual schools to have their own university or college partners.

More joint working between state and private schools to raise standards.

All secondary pupils to have access to after-school small group tuition Pilot of learning credit for pupils in low income families to spend on "extra provision".

Aspiration to raise combined public and private investment in education to 10 per cent of national income.

Open-ended goal to raise state school funding from pound;5,500 per pupil "towards" the pound;8,000 enjoyed by private pupils in 200506.

Possibility of making it easier for universities and colleges to sponsor academies by reducing the required cash contributions.

Damon Buffini, head of Permira, one of London's "big three" private equity firms, recently defended the industry against allegations of tax avoidance.

Predicted to amass a pound;40m fortune by 2009.

Richard Lambert, a former editor of the Financial Times, became director general of the CBI in July 2006. He was the only non-economist on the Bank of England's monetary policy committee from 2003 to 2006.

Sir Terry Leahy, chief executive of the supermarket giant Tesco, has been voted one of the most powerful men in Britain. In 2005 he received a pay rise of almost 25 per cent, taking him to annual earnings just short of pound;4m.

Sir John Rose has been chief executive of Rolls-Royce since 1996, joining the firm in 1984 from a banking career with the First National Bank of Chicago and Security Pacific. He heads the business arm of The Prince's Trust.

Bob Wigley, European chairman of Merrill Lynch, the investment bankers, also chairs Business in the Community's education team. Last year he dismissed reports that he would be paid pound;8-10m as "rubbish".

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