Get into bed with business

4th July 2008 at 01:00
In the present climate, many schools are finding that devolved budgets don't seem to stretch as far as they used to
In the present climate, many schools are finding that devolved budgets don't seem to stretch as far as they used to. This may be due to the 1 per cent "efficiencies" that schools have to find each year, although falling birth rates in many parts of the country can also be a key factor. This is why schools will benefit from being outward-looking in their approach to working with the business community and engaging with alternative sources of funding and experience.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of noise from the Government about fostering these links. After all, relationships with businesses can be a gold mine if nurtured. The politicians have moved on to other things, but the opportunities remain - from having a sensory garden built, to firms providing employees to act as reading buddies or mentors.

Some big businesses will support schools for philanthropic reasons or because they believe in "corporate social responsibility". Many big firms fall into this category, but be sensible about who you approach - for example, unless you are based in Bradford or Bingley, don't bother approaching Bradford and Bingley; it's not a sensible use of your time.

However, some firms may want a return for their investment in terms of publicity - a "symbiotic relationship", in management-speak. Press coverage of the firm's good deeds is usually a hit, especially as they would have to do something pretty spectacular to get the column inches for themselves, but schools can get into local papers fairly easily with a well-written press release. Many firms have communications departments to do the writing for you, so the school has only to approve the content.

Charity begins at home, so start by approaching the employers of governors and their spouses. But be prepared for some inevitable knock-backs. Each time this happens, take it on the chin and keep looking outwards to build within.

Aaron King, Governor at Greengate Lane Primary School, Sheffield.

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