Head makes link with hotel chain;Five-star success;Basic skills

4th June 1999 at 01:00
Knock on any door and the chances are it will open. That's what happened to RogerWormleighton when he was seeking abusiness link for Westwood Park Community Primary in Winton, in the Eccles area of Manchester, where he has been headteacher for 14 years.

At Worsley Park, a mile or so up the road on a route that he regularly used while walking his dog, a new Marriott hotel and golf course wastaking shape. He had watched progress with interest when last summer he decided to pop in unannounced on Peter Bech, the general manager, about the possibility of Marriott and his school linking up.

Westwood Park, with 300 pupils, is in a fairly deprived suburb: unemployment is high and a third of pupils qualify for free school meals. And the school had been criticised by the Office for Standards in Education for its teaching standards.

"I knocked on the door of his Portakabin and he immediately indicated a keenness to become involved," says Mr Wormleighton.

After initial contact, came the long haul of preparing policy statements, agreed aims, and an action plan. Before long, Mr Bech became co-opted as the school's business governor.

This was the second partnership betweenMarriott and a primary school: the Forest of Arden Hotel in Warwickshire is involved in a numeracy project with Greenholm Primary in Birmingham.

There are two key elements to the Westwood Park link. The hotel's grounds will be used by the children as a venue for environmental education. Then, with numeracy year approaching, Marriott associates - as the staff are known - will become involved as aides and mentors. "The pupils will be able to use practical examples of numeracyquestions encountered in the hotel, such as how do you cost a meal; how much does it cost to design a car park," says Mr Wormleighton.

"Above all, this is about raising standards," says Mr Wormleighton. "The emphasis onnumeracy is not due to any particular weakness, but because numeracy year is the next thing on the horizon. We actually introduced our own numeracy project in school last September."

The arrangement has boosted school morale. The school choir sang at the hotel grand opening, where Manchester United Football Clubmanager Alex Ferguson was guest of honour, and staff have enjoyed hotel facilities for training days.

In terms of public relations and possible future recruitment, the link is good for Marriott too. "Partnerships between businesses and schools are not about charity," says Mr Wormleighton.

"A lot of other heads wish they had thought of it," he says. What advice would he offer schools looking for a business link? "It comes down to knocking on doors: it's more effective thanwriting letters and it shows the face of the school. I think that's a useful model to follow.

"To ensure the partnership's long-termsuccess, we need to take a long-term view. We must be careful not to try too much too soon."

It helps to be determined, too. Should Mr Wormleighton's resolve to make things happen ever weaken, he has only to look across his study where, pinned upon the wall, is a copy of Winston Churchill's mantra: "Never give up; never give up; never, ever give up."

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