Henry McLeish, addressing the Be An Inventor regional finalists and politicians, businessmen and education delegates to the Education Business Partnership Conference, reaffirmed the Scottish Executive's backing for Education for Work, the term now used to encompass education-industry links, careers education and guidance and the development of pupils' core skills.
"When we talk about the significance of education and business partnerships, it's important to point out that this is not just an idea being talked up by politicians and business people," the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning said. "You all want a good job, to be involved, to earn money, and that's what education and business partnerships are all about - building a foundation and developing it as you go through the different parts of your schooling.
"You boys and girls here today are still at primary school, and for a long time there's been a debate about where business partnerships should get involved in primary or secondary schools. I'm delighted to say that there's a big commitment within he Government in Scotland to working with you and your teachers in primary schools."
Although the aims of the Education for Work initiative are clear - "to maximise employability by developing motivation, experience, knowledge, understanding, attitudes and core skills" - appropriate methods to achieve them, particularly in primary schools, are less clearly defined. A recent schools inspectorate report, Education for Work in Schools, expressed concern at finding that only one primary school in six offered relevant activities.
The report describes Education for Work as "one of the key purposes of the curriculum ... one of a small number of key priorities ... which should permeate education at all stages". Many of the examples of good practice identified by the inspectors involved a whole-class project which motivated the pupils and helped to develop core skills of literacy, numeracy, communications, problem-solving and teamwork. The Be An Inventor challenge is one of a few schemes designed to foster such projects that are aimed specifically at primaries.