Teachers are repeatedly exhorted to do more and to raise standards of achievement regardless of circumstances. Citizenship lessons are the latest recommendation from yet another curriculum review. The Government's Committee on Creative and Cultural Education is calling for more attention to the development of well-rounded, competent human beings to play their democratic roles.
Business leaders who go into schools and colleges constantly express surprise at the amount of work teachers have to do. As evenings and weekends are swallowed-up by meetings and mountains of marking, holidays vanish in the mire of curriculum planning, reading and preparation. The one thing that teachers who leave the profession rarely express regret about is the loss of the so-called holidays.
Bouquets and best teacher nominations are seldom given for diligence alone, nor even for consistently excellent results. First they go to the rule-breakers and the inspired, to individuals with "chemistry" and "a sense of the absurd". Teachers are bombarded with messages - from The TES and the national daily press to government recruitment campaigns on television and cinema - that inspiration, not perspiration, counts most. Where and when, then, to find the space and time to stimulate and inspire pupils?
Research reveals reciprocal benefits when industry managers become school governors (see story below). But that is only the start. Parents, the community and industry must give more time, money and resources. When they do - as numerous examples in the following pages show - results are often spectacular; bouquets are won not by individuals but by whole schools and communities.
Our previous Business Links reports have focused on Education Action Zones, Tony Blair's "Third Way" and measures to combat social exclusion. Now the clock is being turned back to the times of classical Greece and the use of mentors to help stimulate and inspire teachers and pupils. As the Government's Social Exclusion Unit has noted: mentors are at the heart of the best education partnership practices. Mentoring may bring less kudos than high-profile initiatives, but the commitment demanded of industry is considerably greater. That is why David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, has made it the centrepiece of education and training partnerships for the millennium.